Turkey Kurds: The bitter politics of the soccer pitch

Amedspor supporters are fortunate to seem their group play

If ethnic tensions in Turkey are mirrored on the soccer pitch, then Amedspor and their Kurdish following are at the very centre of the field.

The membership represents the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir in south-japanese Turkey, about 120km (seventy five miles) from the Syrian border, with a population of about 1000000.

Mahsum Kazikci, a passionate member of Amedspor’s “Resistance” fan group, reflects the feelings shared by many fellow supporters when he speaks of the “racism” the membership faces.

“There is a saying: ‘We need to purchase by resisting’,” he says.

“When Turks teach it, there is is now not the least bit times truly any relate, however Amedspor followers can’t even write it on a banner. Despite this we can’t ever alternate our personality, our methodology. We can proceed on this path. We’re a official fan membership of a official soccer group.”

The membership was founded in 1990 however in 2014 they rebranded – “Amed” comes from the Kurdish title for Diyarbakir and its surrounding space.

This recent title is only one of many causes uninteresting the pressures they’ve faced in recent years.

They are a protracted methodology from the highest of Turkish soccer – they are no longer even vying for the highest areas in the country’s third absolute best division – however their games are continuously overshadowed by war and difference between followers.

That is, when their followers are no longer banned from attending fits.

I visited Diyarbakir on a sunny Spring Sunday when Amedspor had a apartment sport in opposition to Sancaktepe, a gaggle from Istanbul.

None of Amedspor’s supporters had been allowed in to eye. The motive uninteresting the ban stemmed from a mysterious incident in early March.

Mansur Calar, an Amedspor participant, was accused of slashing rival avid gamers with a razor blade during a apartment match with Sakaryaspor, a gaggle from Adapazari, on 2 March.

Sakaryaspor acknowledged their avid gamers had also been attacked as they inspected the pitch and again through the good and comfortable-up.

After the sport, on social media, avid gamers shared photos of their necks exhibiting scarring. Pro-govt media outlets called Calar a “terrorist with a razor blade”.

The Turkish Soccer Federation banned him for all times and imposed a swish of 25,000 lira (£three,500; $4,550). The penalty was later diminished to a 20-match suspension, however he nonetheless faces a judicial persevering with.

Calar says he’s the sufferer of “a political campaign in opposition to Amedspor”.

“Or no longer it is nonsense,” he tells BBC Turkish. “How would possibly perhaps per chance a soccer participant per chance verbalize a razor blade and damage his opponent? Or no longer it is impossible.

“It was like a derby for us so yes, I used to be rather aggressive. But those scars had been made by my nails, no longer a razor blade. I used to be taking guitar classes and my nails had been rather long.”

“Things I did now not form went viral, out of clutch a watch on on social media,” he says, blaming “false info” for the bans imposed.

“After we dart to an away sport, the rival group’s supporters chant racist slogans in opposition to us,” he provides.

“That is laborious to take psychologically. Amedspor are below colossal tension and we wrestle below these situations.”

It’s general to seem grey wolves at Amedspor’s away fits – it is an emblem adopted by Turkish nationalists. Massive Turkish flags are also waved and slogans a lot like “Kurds out, terrorists out” and “That is Turkey, no longer Kurdistan” are shouted.

In 2016, Amedspor executives had been beaten by a mob in the capital Ankara after a sport in opposition to Ankaragucu.

In 2017, Amedspor’s German-Kurdish participant Deniz Naki, who had been beforehand convicted of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Team’ Celebration (PKK) militant group, was banned for all times and accused of “spreading separatist and ideological propaganda” by diagram of his social media posts.

Amedspor’s chairman, Ali Karakas, attracts a parallel between such reactions and the “polarised political ambiance” in Turkey.

“Soccer is at the centre of politics in Turkey,” he says.

“Some circles employ it as a methodology to explicit their political opinions, because it appeals to colossal and younger heaps. And in at this time’s Turkey, where politicians employ a discriminatory tone, that is mirrored on the pitch.”

Turkey has a protracted history of wrestle and violence dating encourage to the Eighties between the PKK and the Turkish security forces. About Forty,000 other folks had been killed for the reason that PKK took up arms in opposition to the Turkish sigh.

While the most up-to-date AKP govt made efforts in opposition to reconciliation after coming to energy, the Kurdish-majority south-japanese space of Turkey loved handiest a pair of years of peace, between 2012 and 2015.

Since 2015, Diyarbakir and its wider space had been at the centre of one more allotment of urban warfare between Kurdish militants and security forces.

Between July 2015 and December 2016, Turkey imposed curfews and boosted security in the gap, amid political turmoil. PKK militants declared self-rule in loads of areas, digging trenches and building barricades in the streets. Turkish security forces retaliated with militia operations.

In accordance to the Place of work of the United Countries Excessive Commissioner for Human Rights, some 2,000 other folks had been killed in the war and more than 355,000 other folks had been internally displaced, escaping the combating on their doorstep.

In February 2016, as the violence in the gap reached its peak, Amedspor avid gamers walked on to the pitch retaining a huge banner that read “Children May per chance well additionally merely nonetheless Now now not Die, They May per chance well additionally merely nonetheless On the field of The Match”.

With this slogan, followers and the group had been accused of “making terrorist propaganda” and so that they purchased a series of penalties. Supporters had been banned from over 60 away games over the last three years. “Safety causes” had been given as justification.

Since then, many of their slogans and banners had been deemed “ideological propaganda”.

After I visited followers at the Resistance membership, they had been painting a banner in toughen of Mansur Calar earlier than their subsequent dwelling sport, in opposition to Sancaktepe.

It read: “Mansur Calar is now not any longer alone”. They hoped to salvage it into the stands where they had been no longer allowed.

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1000’s luxuriate in died and 1000’s had been displaced since a ceasefire broke down in July.

But attain match day, as soon as I stepped inside the abandoned stadium, neither banner nor followers had been wherever to be considered.

Supporters later informed me delegates of the soccer federation had prevented them from displaying it.

“We’re unbiased right followers of a official membership that play in the Turkish league,” says Mahsum Kazikci.

“We toughen our group the identical methodology as other group followers form. And we are going to proceed to form that.”

“What shall we form?” asks fan membership chief Ramazan Tugay. “If it is a crime to claim: ‘Mothers need to nonetheless no longer shout however eye their teens play soccer’, what let’s teach? We’re attempting to shout for peace in soccer.”

The same emotions are expressed by Erdal Akdemir, Amedspor’s Barikat (Barricade) fan membership chief.

“We’re voters of this country however we also luxuriate in obvious a language, culture and identification. We’re Kurds and we’re Amedspor’s Kurdish followers. No person need to nonetheless ignore us,” he says.

The gap and its Kurdish identification are considered as “the principle causes for the adversarial perspective” the membership faces, in step with Amedspor’s female fan membership chief, Beritan Akyol.

She provides: “We’re venerable to the bans and punishments as these lands are deemed as a doubtless criminal space.”

This sentiment will doubtless be masks round the fits of Amedspor’s ladies folks’s group, who play in Turkey’s top division. Fans who are no longer allowed to eye Amedspor’s male group’s dwelling games continuously rally uninteresting the ladies folks’s group as an more than a couple of.

Complaining regarding the heavy security presence in a match in opposition to the gap’s other Kurdish-majority group, Hakkarigucu, Amedspor’s female avid gamers emerge from the changing rooms and are heard saying: “What is that this, are we going to a battle or a soccer ground?”

Fully a pair of days later, on 23 March, Amedspor prepare to salvage permission for his or her followers to wait on an away sport in Istanbul, in opposition to Eyupspor. It’s handiest the 2nd away match in over three years where Amedspor supporters are allowed into the stands.

There would possibly perhaps be again a heavy police presence, the protection forces are somewhat intimidating. But with the followers’ eyes on the pitch, and police officers’ eyes on the followers, chants are heard from the Amedspor stands in toughen of every groups, rallying uninteresting a message of unity.

“Amedspor – Eyupspor! Hand in hand, arm in arm, every groups unite! Peace in the stadium! Hey, professional-govt media, form you hear us? Attain you look us chanting for peace?”

Be taught more:

Amedspor followers
Amedspor fan Mahsum Kazikci
Mansur Calar spoke to BBC Turkish in April
Amedspor chairman Ali Karakas