Earlier this summer, Turkey was besieged by an attempted military coup. Government officials believed the so-called Gülen Movement (also known as “FETÖ”) was behind the insurrection, headed by their enigmatic leader, Fethullah Gülen, who’s been living in self-imposed exile in the United States for more than two decades. Hundreds of people died during the fighting, while thousands were left injured, and nearly 75,000 citizens have been detained, and according to some watch groups, subjected to human rights abuses.
It bears mentioning that Fethullah Gülen operates approximately 150 privately-run, publicly-funded schools in the U.S. (and numerous others around the world), all of which adhere to statewide standards of education. However, the movement has always had strong ties and influence within all major sectors of the Turkish government. The Gülen Movement claims itself as a moderate form of Islam focused on peace and prosperity. Others label it a suspected terrorist organization. Over the past five years, the movement has had strained relations with the (democratically-elected) Turkish government for what it saw as its increasingly authoritarian rule.
It’s why the Turkish government, and particularly their president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, is pointing the finger at Gülen for being behind the attempted overthrow, while Gülen, of course, claims no responsibility for the coup. Both sides will have to wait for some sort of independent investigation to take place before it can be determined whether Fethullah Gülen can possibly be extradited from the U.S. back to Turkey for his alleged role in the coup.
It’s an extremely complicated political and religious conflict, one that Oklahoma City Thunder forward Enes Kanter has somehow gotten embroiled in. According to a Turkish newspaper, Kanter’s parents have recently disowned him because of his vocal support of Gülen. Via Şeyma Eraz, Yunus Paksoy of Daily Sabah:
Kanter’s father Mehmet Kanter disowned his son for his ties with the Gülen Movement. Saying that Enes was hypnotized by the Gülenist Terror Organization [FETÖ], his father wrote: “I apologize to the Turkish people and the president for having such a son.”
Stressing that he has been educating students for almost 30 years, Kanter said: “His statements and behavior trouble our family. I told Enes that we would disown him should he not change his course. He did not care.”
The elder Kanter said he has not been able to communicate with Enes since 2015. “I would not have taken Enes to the U.S. for the basketball camp where his talent was discovered had I known that it would come to this point,” he said.
Kanter’s family is particularly incensed about his use of Twitter to publicly criticize the Turkish president and its government. But severed familial ties aren’t the only backlash he’s received. Kanter wasn’t invited to play with Turkey’s Eurobasket team last year, and in the midst of the attempted coup in July, received numerous death threats, a few of which he posted to his Twitter feed (in Turkish):
It should be noted that the Daily Sabah betrays at least some bias against Gülen, readily labeling them a terrorist organization. Others aren’t so sure. An article in The Conversation by Joshua D. Hendrick, a sociology professor at Loyola who did his dissertation on the Gülen Movement, admits that the organization is both mired in secrecy and that it’s possible there are nefarious factions operating inside the group independently of their leadership, but won’t go so far as to label them terrorists.