25 Human Rights NGOs Announce Enes Kanter Freedom as 2022 Courage Award Winner

Enes Kanter Freedom dribbles a basketball
Enes Kanter Freedom drives against Cleveland Cavaliers center Evan Mobley (USA Today)

GENEVA, February 22, 2022 —  A cross-regional coalition of 25 human rights organizations announced today that its prestigious human rights award will go this year to Enes Kanter Freedom, a NBA athlete and activist currently risking his career for speaking out against China’s persecution of ethnic Uyghurs.

Freedom will receive the Geneva Summit’s 2022 Courage Award on Wednesday, April 6th, 2022, addressing a ceremony to be attended by UN ambassadors, human rights activists and journalists from around the world attending the 14th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy.

Freedom was chosen for his “heroic efforts to sound the alarm on China’s brutal human rights abuses,” said Hillel Neuer, the executive director of United Nations Watch, a co-organizer of the conference together with Liberal International, Human Rights Foundation, and more than 20 other human rights groups.

“I want to say thank you to the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy for its support and for shining a global spotlight on human rights abuses in China,” said Freedom. “I hope this encourages other athletes to stand up for what is right.”

“Despite China’s propaganda, the regime does not represent the Olympic values of respect and friendship, it’s a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its people,” said Freedom.

Raised in Turkey, Freedom has been targeted for daring to call out human rights violations by Turkish President Erdogan. Turkey canceled his passport, and imprisoned his father. On a 2017 visit to Indonesia, Freedom barely escaped police officers that the Turkish government had sent after him.

When the basketball star condemned Chinese President Xi Jinping as a “brutal dictator,” his games were pulled in China, with whom the NBA enjoys a lucrative relationship.

Freedom was recently traded from the Boston Celtics to the Houston Rockets, which then waived him. Many suspect the NBA is punishing him for speaking out on China, and trying to silence him.

The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy has been has been a leading voice at the United Nations for the cause of the Uyghurs, hosting Uyghur dissidents such as Rebiya Kadeer in 2010, Bahtiyar Omer in 2011, Jewher Ilham in 2020, Nury Turkel in 2020, Rayhan Asat in 2021, and Rushan Abbas this year. The Geneva Summit counts the World Uyghur Congress as one of its founding coalition partners.

Previous laureates of the Courage Award include imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, and Mauritanian anti-slavery campaigner Biram Dah Abeid.

Freedom will join other courageous champions of human rights from around the world at this year’s Geneva Summit, including dissidents, activists, victims, and relatives of political prisoners from China, Syria, Cuba, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Nicaragua, who will testify on the human rights situation in their countries.

The global gathering is acclaimed as a one-stop opportunity to hear from and meet frontline human rights advocates, many of whom have personally suffered imprisonment and torture. “It’s a focal point for dissidents worldwide,” said Neuer.

The annual conference will be held on the heels of the first 2022 session of the UN Human Rights Council, which now includes China, Russia, Libya, Cuba and Venezuela as members.

Videos of past speaker testimonies are available at www.genevasummit.org.

Admission to this year’s April 6 Summit is free and open to the public, but registration is mandatory. The conference will also be available via live webcast.

For media inquiries and interviews with Geneva Summit speakers, please contact media@genevasummit.org.

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