A prominent Turkish basketball player in the US has changed his name to “Gulen” after being disowned by his family for his support of the exiled Turkish cleric accused of masterminding the 15 July coup in Turkey.
Enes Kanter, an NBA player for the Oklahoma City Thunder team and staunch supporter of Fethullah Gulen announced via a statement that he would be changing his name to support the cleric, who is currently facing possible extradition to Turkey over his alleged involvement in the failed coup attempt:
“Today I lost my mother, father, sibling and other family members of 24 years,” he wrote. “My father asked me to change my surname. My birth mother rejected me.
“I am willing to sacrifice my entire family and descendants for the Hocaefendi [Gulen].
“Persevere brothers and sisters. Grit your teeth together and don’t fail this test.
“From now on my father, mother and family is Hizmet, which flies the Turkish flag in 171 countries.”
He signed off the statement “Enes (Kanter) GULEN.”
Following the announcement, the pro-government Turkish Daily Sabah contacted Kanter’s parents who confirmed that they had told their son they would “disown” him.
“His statements and behaviour trouble our family,” Mehmet Kanter told the paper.
“I told Enes that we would disown him should he not change his course. He did not care.”
He added that he apologised “to the Turkish people and the president for having such a son.”
The 6ft-11in centre position player dunked with the Turkish national team for the first time in 2011 at the EuroBasket tournament. He appeared in eight games and averaged 3.9 rebounds and 9.6 points per game, according to Sabah.
Like many Muslims across the globe, Kanter studied as a child at a Gulen-funded school in Turkey and has publicly declared himself a supporter of the Hizmet (“service”) movement.
Gulen was previously a staunch ally of current Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the two fell out after Gulen supporters in the judiciary and police implicated Erdogan and his sons in a corruption scandal in 2013.
The Gulen movement (referred to as the Gulenist Terror Organisation or FETO by the government) was designated a “terrorist organisation” in December 2015.
Gulen and his supporters in the worldwide Hizmet movement claim that the cleric’s brand of Islam, which is purportedly liberal, modernistic and supportive of science and women’s rights, is a progressive blueprint for Muslims.
His opponents accuse him of building shadowy deep state organisations that have infiltrated the military, police, civil service and judiciary within Turkey.
On Tuesday, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that 16,000 people had been formally arrested and remanded in custody in connection with the coup attempt, which was allegedly carried out by a Gulenist faction within the Turkish military.
According to the state-run Anadolu Agency, 6,000 further detainees were still being processed while another 7,668 people were under investigation but were not currently detained.
Turkish officials warned the US on Tuesday not to sacrifice their bilateral ties over the Pennsylvania-based cleric.
“If the US does not deliver (Gulen), they will sacrifice relations with Turkey for the sake of a terrorist,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters during a televised briefing in the capital Ankara.
Gulen strongly denies the Turkish government’s accusations and last Friday his lawyer said that Turkey had failed to provide “a scintilla” of proof to support its claim of the cleric’s involvement in the coup.