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Sports and Separatism: The Dark Side of Football in Southeast Turkey

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Football, as a sport and a culture, is powerful. It can bring people from all walks of life, from all nationalities, together. Its power is fluid, it is exciting, and it is always changing. That’s what makes it beautiful. But that is also what makes it so very dangerous. As much as it can bring people together it can also tear people apart in the most savage of ways. For those who don’t know, a little background reading on Zvonimir Boban’s “kick that started the Yugoslav Wars in Maksimir Stadium” might be useful in the context of understanding this article:

Duke University has an interesting page here: http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/category/yugoslavia-2/

The Daily Mail’s article on a recent Serbia Vs. Croatia International: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2297037/Croatia-Serbia-clash-time-Yugoslav-war-1-500-police-deployed-despite-ban-away-fans.html

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Images Courtesy of: http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/category/yugoslavia-2/ And http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2297037/Croatia-Serbia-clash-time-Yugoslav-war-1-500-police-deployed-despite-ban-away-fans.html

One need not go back to the break up of the Yugoslavia to see such displays, in fact we can even stay in the Balkans. The abandoned Serbia-Albania international in Belgrade on October 14 2014 served as yet another reminder of football’s ability to uncover and exacerbate the differences in divided societies.

It is because of the precedence such events provide that I am deeply scared about recent developments in Turkish football. Lets start with Gençlerbirliği’s shrewd chairman Ilhan Cavcav, the man who discovered former Chelsea and Real Madrid man Geremi Nijitap. On December 26 2014 Mr. Cavcav made a “bold” (in his own words) announcement, suggesting that the Turkish National Anthem should be forbidden before domestic matches and that it should only be played before international matches. For me—both as an American and a Turk—his announcement is anathema. After all, what would a baseball game be without the Star Spangled Banner? In America, of course, it is part of the pageantry. In Turkey it is, admittedly, different. As I outlined in my thesis, the national anthem came to be sung in Turkish stadia as a reaction to the Kurdish crisis in the mid 1990s when violent clashes between the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) and Turkish Army were at their height in the country’s southeast. And now Mr. Cavcav’s call stems from unfortunate developments in the same region of Turkey twenty years later.

His main qualm with the singing of the national anthem is seemingly logical, especially given the Balkan precedent:

“Gazetede okudum: İstiklal Marşımız’a ıslıklar çalınmış. Bu milletin bir evladı olarak, bu millet için çalışan ve uğraşan bir sanayici olarak yarın bir gün bu olayların çoğalması kargaşalara sebebiyet verebilir. Bu nedenle sayın Başbakanımız’ın talimat vererek İstiklal Marşımız’ı lig maçlarında yasaklaması gerekir” diye konuştu.

“I read in the papers that our National Anthem was whistled down. As a son of this nation, as an industrialist working and struggling for this nation one day these events could proliferate and cause major chaos. Therefore our esteemed President should give an order and forbid the National Anthem at [domestic] league matches.”

His fear may be grounded—but running away is never the solution when the consequences are so grave, so obvious. His team Gençlerbirliği were drawn in Group H of the Turkish cup along with Giresunspor, Konyaspor, and—most notably—Cizrespor. Cizrespor is the only team from Turkey’s amateur league to make it to the group stages of the Turkish Cup, but how they got there has been a lesson in the geopolitics of a nation and its football.

 

I visited Cizre back in 2009 during quieter times and I have no doubt that the city I visited then is not the same city today. A city of now almost 100,000 people, it was an important gateway to both Anatolia and Mesopotamia during the Abbasid period of Islamic history, situated on the crossroads of both regions. Today the city is situated where the volatile borders of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq meet. Cizre has a long and distinguished history, from its foundation by Noah to being the site of Alexander the Great’s crossing of the Tigris in 331 BC. Sadly, now the city is best known for being the site of violent clashes between the PKK and the Sunni Muslim Huda-Par group, related to Turkish Hezbullah, who have been emboldened by the actions of ISIS across the border in Syria’s Kobane. Since Kobane fell under ISIS’ attack in early October Turkey’s Kurds, enraged by Turkey’s ambivalence towards—and reluctance to resist—ISIS, have taken matters into their own hands and are actively fighting the Islamist militants. As a result the area has fallen in to chaos (three people were killed in fresh clashes December 27), a chaos that threatens the integrity of the Turkish state.

So back to the football. Cizrespor started their Turkish cup adventure on a clear late summer day on September 3, 2014 at the Yüksekova Şehir Stadium against Yüksekova Belediyespor in the first qualifying round. As a match between two teams from neighboring southeastern provinces—both without any representatives in the professional leagues—it was bound to be a grudge match, a grind-it-out kind of match. Indeed it was a tough victory for Cizrespor, who took the match 2-1 despite some tension between players during the match. But these two teams were from the same under-developed regions of Turkey, there was no underlying tension stemming from off the field matters. It all went off without a hitch.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://haberciniz.biz/turkiye-kupasi-on-eleme-turu-3143353h.htm

Next up in the first round proper for Cizrespor was a trip to another neighboring province, this time Mardin, for a match against fellow Regional Amateur League side Mardinspor. No one knew what to expect, given that on February 2, 2014 a match between the same two sides (in Cizre) descended into violence following a 1-0 Cizrespor victory; 15 people—including one police officer—were wounded in the fighting that even a police presence of 700 could not prevent. But that match was an amateur match, no one heard too much about the events; such violence—even if not on that scale—happens often in tense amateur league encounters. But nothing untoward happened during their September 10 2014 encounter. After a pre-match meal where officials from both teams met to bury the hatchet and spread a message of peace and togetherness the match went off without any problems, even as Cizrespor humbled their hosts in a 1-4 victory. After the victory fans took to the streets in Cizre in celebration, escorting the team bus to the grounds with chants of “Cizrespor are the Champions!”. After all, the people of the region need all the cause for celebration they can get.

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/cizrespor-a-coskulu-karsilama—1938698-skorerhaber/

 

In the second round of the Turkish Cup the competition goes national and opponents are no longer from the same region. Cizrespor’s opponents in this round on September 24, 2014 would be Aydınspor 1923 from the Aegean province of Aydın some 1500 kilometers away—in Turkey, that distance spans two different worlds. The players of Aydınspor 1923 would soon learn that. Despite having a side valued at more than 4 times that of Cizrespor’s (1,300,000 Euro to 245,000 Euro) Aydınspor 1923 conceded two goals in the first six minutes and went down 3-1 on their visit to Cizre. Anyone looking at the team’s values would raise an eyebrow at the result; after the match a few Aydınspor 1923 players told their tale.

Aydınspor’s thirty two year old journeyman defender Aytek Aşıkoğlu has seen a lot in his time. Born in Istanbul, his career started at neighborhood team Gaziosmanpaşaspor in 2002 before taking him to Adanaspor, Gaziantepspor, Elazığspor, Boluspor, Kayseri Erciyesspor, Çaykur Rizespor, Göztepe (Izmir), and finally Aydınspor 1923. The teams span Turkey’s geography: Istanbul to the Mediterranean, the southeast to the Black Sea, Central Anatolia to the Aegean coast. But I am sure that none of that could have prepared him for what he lived through in Cizre on that September day. His Twitter posts tell a dark story:

“Şükurler olsun TÜRKİYE CUMHURİYETİ VATANDAŞIYIM şükürler olsun ATATÜRK’ÜN EVLADIYIM”

“Thankfully I am a CITIZEN OF THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY thankfully I AM A SON OF ATATÜRK”

“Bir tane Türk bayrağinın olmadığı, bizden başka kimsenin Türkçe konuşmadığı, İstiklal Marşımızı sadece bizim söyledigimiz bir yerde, Türkiye Kupası maçı oynadık. Tehditler içinde sözde stada girerken yediğimiz dayaklar arasında arama yapılmadan içeri alınan 5000 eli taşlı kişilerin içinde bazı arkadaşlarımızın haklı olarak oynamak istemediği, bazılarının ise korkudan elinin ayağının titrediği kupa maçı oynadık”

“In a place where there was not even one Turkish Flag, in a place where no one other than us spoke Turkish, in a place where only we sang our National Anthem, we played a Turkish Cup Match. We entered what was apparently a stadium among threats and beatings. In a place where 5000 people entered without any searches carrying sticks and stones in their hands, and where some of our friends rightfully didn’t want to play—where some where shaking from head to toe with fear—we played a cup match.”

“Kimse kusura bakmasın biz bugün burada kazansaydık maçtan sonra kimse sağ kalmazdi. Tek tesellim tekrardan ailemi görecek olmam”

“No one should think otherwise, if we had won here today no one would have come out OK. My only consolation is that I will see my family again.”

“Bazen nefes aldığına hayatta kaldığına şükredersin. İşte öyle bir gündü.”

“Sometimes in life you are thankful to even take a breath and still be living. This is one of those days”.

 

While his posts may be hyperbolic at times, his teammate Sezer Sezgin confirmed his reports via Twitter both before and after the match:

“Hoşgeldin yaptılar otobüsün camlarını indirdiler”

“They welcomed us by breaking the glass of our bus”

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He went on to tag the Turkish Football Federation in a post to register his complaint with the situation:

“Bugün bizi futbol oynamamız için gönderdiğiniz stattan maçtan önce dayak ve tehdit, maçtan sonra da zırhlı araçlarla canımızı kurtardık”

“Today at the stadium you sent us into to play football there were pre-game beatings and threats, after the match we saved our lives with armored cars.”

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The Caption Reads: “Buda cikisimiz mac sonu… Zırhlı aracın icinde … Tek sucumuz futbol oynamak…” (“And this is us leaving after the match…inside an armored car…our only crime was playing football”).

Images Courtesy of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2014/09/24/aydinli-aytekten-tuyler-urperten-itiraflar-388069

 

Aydınspor’s coach Akif Başaran also confirmed the events implying that his team lost on purpose—during a dinner served by the Cizre Chamber of Commerce the night before the match they were told to lose. Meanwhile the team’s vice president Erdal Karakavukoğlu added hyperbolically that, “it would have been impossible for even Real Madrid to win that day in Cizre”. Coach Başaran’s statement is below:

“Futbolcularıma maçı oynamazsak stattan çıkamayacağımızı söyledim. Zorla sahaya çıktılar, 3-1 yenilip canlarını kurtardılar. 42 yıldır futbolun içindeyim, böyle şeyler yaşamadım. Otelden stada eskortsuz ve korumasız olarak gittik. Ortalıkta ne polis, ne asker vardı. İçeri girerken bir futbolcumuzun boğazını sıktılar, bir diğerine tekme attılar. Doğru düzgün ısınmaya bile çıkamadık. Her şey kendiliğinden gelişti. Teknik direktör olarak oyuncuma yenilmesini söylemem mümkün değil. Ancak o anki psikolojisini anlamak lazım. Bu atmosferde hangi takım kazanmak için oynar? Nitekim ilk 7 dakikada 2 gol yedik tansiyon bir anda düştü, herkes rahatladı.”

“I told my players that if we don’t play we won’t be able to get out of the stadium. They went out and played under duress and lost 3-1 to save their lives. I have been in football for 42 years and have never lived through anything like this. We went from the hotel to the stadium with no escorts or protection; there were no police or soldiers anywhere. When we entered they grabbed the throat of one of my players and kicked another. We couldn’t even warm-up properly. Everything happened on by itself. As a coach it is impossible for me to tell my players to lose. But you have to understand the psychology at that moment. What team can play to win in such an atmosphere? Then we conceded two goals in the first seven [sic] minutes and the tension fell suddenly, everyone relaxed.”

On the Cizrespor side club spokesman İdris Bingöl rejected Aytek Aşıkoğlu’s Tweets. He responded to Fanatik.com.tr’s questions by saying:

“Aytek Aşıkoğlu’nun yazdıkları gerçeği yansıtmıyor. Cizre, futbol sevdalısı bir ilçedir. Böyle suçlamaların yapılmasının sebebi Kürt ili olmamız. Cizrespor, halkımızın ve Cizreli iş adamlarının sayesinde ayakta duran bir kulüp. Takımımız, ilçemizdeki gençlerin spor yapmasını teşvik ediyor. Gençlerimizi kahve köşelerinde oturmaktan kurtarıp spora yönlendirmeye çalışıyoruz…Maça çakmak, su şişesi, hatta poşet bile sokulmadı. Eli taşları kişilerin stada alındığı iddiası kesinlikle doğru değil. Kürt ili olduğumuz için böyle şeyler söyleniyor. Takımımızda 2. Lig ve 1. Lig tecrübesi bulunan iyi oyuncularımız var. Bugün de çok iyi oynadık ve kazandık. Sanırım Aydınsporlular amatör bir takıma yenilmeyi kaldıramadığı için böyle sözler sarf etti. Biz her şeye rağmen maçtan sonra Aydınspor’la yemek yedik ve onları öyle yolcu ettik” diye konuştu.

“What Aytek Aşıkoğlu wrote doesn’t reflect reality. Cizre is a district that loves football. The reason such allegations are being made is that we are a Kurdish province. Cizrespor exists because of the support of its people and Cizre’s businessmen. Our team encourages the youth in our district to play sports. We are trying to save our youth from sitting in coffee houses by directing them to sports instead…No lighters, water bottles, or even plastic bags where allowed into the stadium. The claim that people with stones in their hands were allowed into the stadium is certainly untrue. Things like this are being said because we are a Kurdish province. We have good players with first and second division experience on our team, and today we played very well and won. I think that Aydınspor[‘s players] are saying these types of things because they can’t accept having lost to an amateur team. Despite everything we ate a meal with Aydınspor after the match and sent them off.”

While I would like to believe Mr. Bingöl the photos tweeted by Aydınspor’s players tell a different story. While I would like to fault Aydınspor’s coach for bringing the game into disrepute—and implying that his side lost on purpose—I can’t imagine being a footballer playing in such an atmosphere either. But all of this took place in the second round of the Turkish cup, between an amateur side from southeast Turkey and a relatively unsupported second division team from Aegean Turkey. Again, not too many people—aside from football maniacs like me—heard of the events and life went on.

 

The next month, on October 28, 2014, Cizrespor hosted Göztepe (Izmir), one of Turkey’s most famous clubs and one with an international fan base. When the draw was made I was in London with my friend, himself a Göztepe fan from childhood, and told me with a straight face that “there is no way we will win in Cizre”. Well if he knew it, then why did the Turkish football federation not move the match to another city? It’s a good question—the kind that makes one ask “Do they want trouble?” We will never know that much, but after Göztepe’s 2-0 loss only 57 words were used in the match summary by Fanatik.com.tr—with no mention of the extracurricular events that took place…just the fact that fans were sitting on the stadium’s roof.

But it could never be covered up. As one of Turkey’s oldest—and biggest—clubs, any match involving Göztepe would become national news. And it did. Even CNN Turk—themselves famous for showing a penguin documentary during the Gezi protests—picked up the story. Unlike Aydınspor 1923, Göztepe got a police escort from the airport to the stadium. But the three armored busses and five armored cars couldn’t prevent the team bus from being stoned en route.

 

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.goztepeliler.com/haber-2326-Dun-Cizrede-Kaybedilmek-Uzere-Olan-Bir-Vatan-Oldugunu-Gordum.html#

 

Unlike Aydınspor 1923, Göztepe was able to come out for warm-ups…under a rain of foreign objects hurled from the stands. It took Cizrespor president Salih Sefinç to calm the irate fans down himself. After the events during and after the Aydınspor 1923 match Cizrespor arranged for 1000 scarves with “Cizrespor-Göztepe” written on them to be put on the seats of the stadium in a bid to create a friendship between the clubs…the majority of these scarves were thrown onto the pitch. No one wanted them. And just like during the Aydınspor 1923 match, the Turkish National Anthem was whistled down:

In the 63rd minute Göztepe tried to take a corner kick and a tear gas bomb was thrown onto the pitch along with fireworks. The referee had to take the teams to the center of the field while the police tried to calm the situation down—how much they succeeded is questionable; the governors of Şırnak Province and Cizre District left early due to security concerns. After the final whistle hundreds of Cizrespor supporters staged a pitch invasion while their players helped their Göztepe counterparts to the locker rooms.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.radikal.com.tr/spor/cizrespor_goztepe_macinda_yuzlerce_taraftar_sahaya_girdi-1221882

 

After the match an anonymous Göztepe player wrote his version of the events on one of Göztepe’s fan sites Goztepeliler.com, which was subsequently picked up by Turkish Eurosport. The title he chose, “Yesterday I saw that what was lost in Cizre was a country [more than a match]”, spoke volumes and became truly national news. I have attempted to translate some excerpts below:

 

“Dün oynadığımız Cizrespor – Göztepe Maçında, bir Maç’dan ziyade kaybedilenlerin çok daha fazla olduğunu gördük.. 

TFF’nin Ziraat TÜRKİYE Kupası adı verilen oragnizasyonda, kendi vatan ve topraklarımızda, zırhlı araçlar ve Toma’lar eşliğinde stada güclükle gelebiliyoruz.. Yol boyunca Takımımızı taşıyan Polis Araçlarına taşlar ve patlayıcı maddeler atılıyor.

Isınmak için sahaya çıkarken üzerimize atılan yabancı maddeler (Taş, Kremit, ses bombaları, havai fişekler) ve sahada kim oldukları belli olmayan onlarca insan, gerek ısınırken gerekse maç boyu sürekli tehditler savuran ama hiçbir şekilde sahaya girme izni olmayan sözde görevliler..

Armasından Türk Bayrağını çıkarmış olan Cizrespor Maçı öncesi atılan Terör örgütü sloganları ve hem Stad çalışanları hemde ordaki Cizreliler tarafından sabote edilen (okunmayan) Istiklal Marşımız..

Bütün bu olanları bilen gören ve protokolden sessizce izleyen, herşey cok normalmış gibi davranan, sözde devletimizin bir Valisi..

Maç boyunca tribünlerden ve tribünlerin çatısından sahaya atılan taşların ve yabancı maddelerin, Maç oynanırken sürekli sahaya giren görevliler tarafından toplanmaya çalışılması ve hakeminde buna sessiz kalması. Maçı uzatmaya taşımamak için verilen bir Penaltı ve hakeme ”neden Penaltı verdin” diye sorulduğunda, bende bilmiyorum diye alınan cevap.

Maç’dan önce ve Maç boyunca atılan tezahüratlarda bölücük ve terör örgütü propagandası olmasına rağmen hiçbir şekilde müdahale edilmemesi ”burası Kürdistan burdan cıkış yok” sesleri ve bunlar görülmesin, duyulmasın, bilinmesin diye Maçın Canlı yayınlanmak istenmemesi ve Canlı yayınlanmasına engel olunması..

Türkiye Futbol Federasyonu bunların hesabını kime ve nasıl verecek?

Dün Cizrede kaybedilen sadece bir Maç değildi.

Dün Cizrede kaybedilmek üzere olan bir vatan olduğunu gördüm, devletin hiçbir şekilde etkisi olmadığı bir bölgede vatanını korumak isteyen koca yürekli Polis ve Askerlerin olduğunu gördüm, o şartlarda Terör yuvası dönmüş mahallelerde kalbinde Türk Bayrağı taşıyan ve nöbet tutan Adam gibi Adamlar gördüm..

”Siz bizi düşünmeyin, sadece bu Maç’ı bizim için kazanın” diyen o Polislerimiz, hakkınızı helal edin..

 

“Yesterday’s Cizrespor-Göztepe match showed us that what was lost was much more than a match.

In an event the Turkish Football Federation calls the Ziraat TURKISH Cup we were barely able to make it to the stadium escorted by armored cars and riot control vehicles, in our own country and our own lands. All the way to the stadium the Police vehicles carrying our team were met with rocks and explosive materials.

We saw foreign objects (rocks, bricks, sound bombs, fireworks) thrown at us when we came out for warm ups and the unidentified tens of people on the field, those threatening us before and during the match, but who had no right to enter the field and were supposedly working [for the team]…

We saw a Cizrespor who took the Turkish Flag off of their jersey [NOTE: this is true, I have a Cizrespor jersey from my visit which has the Turkish Flag on it, the team’s current shirts do not have it] and the terrorist slogans being yelled, we saw our National Anthem sabotaged by the Cizre fans and stadium workers…. 

We saw a supposed governor from our country who also saw and knew all of these things but who chose to watch in silence and act as if everything was normal.

We saw the stones and objects being thrown from the stands before and during the match, we saw the fans continuously attempting to enter the field and the referee remaining silent. In order to not take the match to extra time a penalty was given and when the referee was asked ‘Why did you give that penalty?’ his answer was I don’t know either… 

We saw the separatist and terrorist propaganda that was being yelled from the stands before and during the match that was not stopped at all; so that the sounds of “This is Kurdistan there is no way out” could not be heard, could not be seen, could not be known, the match was not recorded live…

How will the Turkish Football Federation answer this? 

What was lost yesterday in Cizre was not just a match. 

I saw that what was lost yesterday was a country. I saw an area where the state has no power whatsoever and where brave Police and Soldiers want to protect the state. I saw real men who carry the Turkish Flag in their hearts standing watch in neighborhoods that have become havens of terror.

Bless those Police who said “Don’t worry about us, just win this match for us”.

 

 

 

For anyone who has love for a country this is indeed a grizzly account of stadium terror in its worst form. Yet no one knows, as the player said the game was not televised live (when many such matches are). And as he also said, the match was not stopped despite the materials raining onto the field. In any other context, in any other place, the match most likely would have been abandoned. But it wasn’t.

 

Cizrespor’s officials responded to these allegations as well. President Salih Sefinç’s statement is below:

 

“28 Ekim 2014 tarihinde Türkiye’nin köklü kulüplerinden bir tanesi olan Göztepe ile Cizre’de bu güzel coğrafyada, güzel bir futbol müsabakası yaptık. Bana göre fair-play içerisinde geçen, karşı takımın yöneticileri ve futbolcuları ile Cizresporlu futbolcular ve yöneticileri açısından kardeşçe geçen bir müsabaka olmuştur. Derbi maçlarında çıkan olayların yüzde beşi kadar olayların yaşanmamasına rağmen bazı medya kuruluşu ve gazetelere bakıldığında kendilerine yakışmayan ve Cizre’yi hedef alan üsluplarla haber yazıldığı görülmüştür. Biz bu yazılanları gerçekten tasvip etmiyoruz. Cizrespor Yönetim Kurulu olarak spor anlamında doğudan batıya uzanan bir köprü olmak istiyoruz. İstanbul’daki bir takımımız Cizre’ye ya da Bursa’ya gidip güzel güzel futbolunu oynayacak. Bursa da gelip burada oynayacak. Bunun güzelliğini ancak bu şekilde yaşayabileceğiz. Batıdaki Türk kardeşlerimiz ile Doğuda yaşayan Kürt kardeşlerimiz arasında provokatörlük yapan ya da güzel olmayan, kendi üsluplarına yakışmayan şekilde yazı yazmak bence basın yayın kurallarına aykırı olan şeylerdir. Biz bunları tasvip etmiyor ve buna karşı olduğumuzu belirtmek istiyoruz”

“In Cizre on October 28, 2014 we played a beautiful football match in this beautiful geography with one of Turkish football’s most storied clubs, Göztepe. For me this match was played with Fair-Play and brotherhood between the Cizrespor players and officials and our opponent’s players and officials. Despite the fact that less than five percent of the things that happen in derby matches happened here some media outlets and papers wrote stories unbecoming of them and that target Cizre. We really don’t approve of these lies. As the Cizrespor Board of Directors we want to be a sporting bridge stretching from the east to the west. One of our teams from Istanbul can come to Cizre or Bursa and play football comfortably. Bursa will come and play here too. We can only realize this beautiful [thing] this way. I think that writing provocative things about our Turkish brothers in the west and our Kurdish brothers in the east, and writing unbecoming stories, is a violation of press and media rules. We do not approve of these things and want to make it clear that we are against them.”

 

Some of Mr. Sefinç’s comments are spot on. Sports should serve as a bridge between east and west, between Kurds and Turks, between under-developed and developed parts of nations. But not everyone thinks this way. Mr. Sefinç himself had to calm down his rowdy fans, so perhaps he would be better served to work on his own fans and community instead of targeting news outlets in a manner that only serves to fan the flames of mutual accusations.

 

 

So now we come to December 9, 2014 when Ilhan Cavcav’s Gençlerbirliği visited Cizre for their Turkish Cup group stage match. The team was again taken by armored car to the stadium. In an ironic coincidence, these were the same armored busses that took the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to Kobane in their fight against ISIS. This is, after all, a team from the Turkish top flight—their safety must be ensured!

 

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Images Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/27738366.asp#

 

The stadium was empty due to a stadium closure stemming from the events outlined above but…it didn’t change much. The Cizrespor fans watched from a concrete apartment block towering over the small stadium, yelling slogans for Kobane and even flying the flag of Kurdish Northern Iraq. And throughout the match firecrackers and fireworks were thrown onto the pitch.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/27740633.asp# And http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/27738366.asp#

 

The aftermath of Gençlerbirliği’s victory was predictable: pitched battles between Cizrespor’s citizens (I don’t know how many are “fans”) and the police. The Gençlerbirliği team were stranded in the stadium for almost an hour, while nearby schools had to be evacuated when children were affected by the tear gas drowning the streets.

 

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Images Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/27740633.asp#

 

 

The story of five matches in four months truly tells the story of a Turkey threatened to be ripped apart by the chaos engulfing its neighbors. It was enough for columnist Zafer Büyükavcı of the sports daily Fanatik to write a warning concerning these events: “Gentlemen are you aware: The country is slipping through our fingers.” Unfortunately his warning fell on deaf ears.

 

 

On December 24, 2014, Turkish giants Galatasaray visited the heart of Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, Diyarbakır, to face Diyarbakır Büyükşehir Belediyespor in their Turkish Cup match-up. It shouldn’t have been an issue—Galatasaray voluntarily played the 2000 Turkish Cup Final in Diyarbakır and in my thesis I mentioned that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan asked for a TV set in his prison cell to watch the 2000 UEFA Cup Final between Galatasaray and Arsenal since he is a Galatasaray fan. Galatasaray even chose to go to the hotel without an escort—Vice President Abdürrahim Albayrak said “The people’s team will go to the hotel among the people.”

 

Nothing happened around the hotel, until match day when a group of 10-15 people stoned the Galatasaray bus. Still, it wasn’t enough to ruin the friendly atmosphere. According to the Cumhuriyet article the differences couldn’t overcome a mutual distaste for industrial football, and signs were written in both languages:

 

“Kürdistan’da spor yarış değil kardeşliktir, Futbol sahada güzel borsada değil. TOKİ sizin stat bizim.”

 “In Kurdistan sports aren’t a race they’re brotherhood. Football is good on the field not on the stock market. TOKI [NOTE: Turkey’s state run housing administration which builds most stadiums—see the construction and corruption scandals] your stadium is ours.”

 

But still the Turkish-Kurdish problem proved inescapable and the bad apples were out there at the match. Most fans were yelling for “Diyarbakırspor”—but the from the younger fans came “Amedspor” (the Kurdish and Syriac name of the city). In the 88th minute the match was stopped when a stone was thrown at one of the linesmen. And the fans still whistled down the national anthem. And the fans still yelled support for Kobane. And the Diyarbakır Büyüksehir Belediyespor President Ihsan Avcı—despite his expressing regret at the stonings–still said the team came out to not be “Diyarbakır’s” team but “Kurdistan’s” team: The people’s team.

 

The situation is fluid. But it is also dangerous, and that must be kept in mind. Torku Konyaspor, ahead of their upcoming match in Cizre, asked for it to be moved in the wake of the recent violence in Cizre (both related to sports and unrelated to sports). According to the Turkish Football Federation’s website there has been no change, the match will take place at 11:30am local time at the Cizre stadium. Regardless of what happens in relation to football I hope that the government realizes that what is happening in southeast Turkey today is very dangerous for Turkey’s future going into the New Year. They need only look west to the Balkans for an example of what could happen.

 

A few pictures of the dusty Cizre Sehir Stadium taken during my visit in May 2009:

DSCN1675 DSCN1672 DSCN1674 DSCN1673

 

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GalataSARAY In Ak SARAY: What It Might Mean

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Before Friday evening’s match in Ankara with Gençlerbirliği the Galatasaray football team became the first Turkish football club to visit the sprawling newly built Ak Saray palace. President Erdoğan’s palace has been criticized for many reasons, including its cost (estimated at 615 million USD but which has been, conveniently, kept secret), its size (President Erdoğan corrected critics by stating that the palace actually has more than 1,150 rooms—NPR missed this important fact), its location in the Atatürk Forestry Farm (AOÇ) (10,000 trees where uprooted, 3,000 chopped, and imported new trees—some costing up to 2,000 Euros—where planted but failed to thrive in the new ecosystem), and its overall extravagance which serves as a slap in the face to a country and its people where the average income is 10,972 US Dollars.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.npr.org/blogs/parallels/2014/12/24/370931835/turkeys-president-and-his-1-100-room-white-palace

Seemingly oblivious to the obvious connotations of such a visit Galatasaray’s board decided to accept the invitation to become the first football team to visit Mr. Erdoğan’s palace.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/173294/Galatasaray_dan__Kac-Ak_Saray_da_Erdogan_a_ziyaret.html

Of course such visits are normal in the United States where championship winning sports teams are invited to the White House. Such visits serve as tradition, and tend to be free of any political message. But then again, Turkey is a very different place than the United States, and reactions to the visit varied. Galatasaray’s vice President Abdürrahim Albayrak called the palace the “Sultanate Palace” and defended it, saying that critics where just “jealous”. Mr. Albayrak also presented Mr. Erdoğan with a Galatasary jersey complete with number 53, the license plate code of both men’s home province Rize.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/foto/foto_spor/173538/9/Galatasaray_dan_Recep_Tayyip_Erdogan_a_ziyaret__FOTO_GALERi_.html

On the other hand one of the team’s board members, Selim Arda Üçer, responded to Mr. Albayrak’s comments during the visit via twitter with a post commemorating the 95th anniversary of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s visit to Ankara with the hashtag #27Aralik 1919 (27December1919).

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/173572/Galatasarayli_yoneticiden_Kemal_Ataturk_paylasimi.html

Similarly footballer Olcan Adın chose to take to Twitter and “like” a few Atatürk pictures while also hiding from the camera during his team’s photo shoot with the Turkish leader.

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Images Courtesy of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/173537/Olcan_Adin_dan_Saltanat_Sarayi_nda__Kac-Ak__protesto.html

Even if Mr. Albayrak claims that the visit was mainly in order to bring to the president’s attention the problems with the metro leading to the Ali Sami Yen arena it seems that there may have been other motives that lie somewhere beneath the surface.

 

On December 17 Galatasaray President Duygun Yarsuvat made comments that shook the Turkish football world during an interview with Milliyet Newspaper’s Atilla Gökçe. According to Mr. Yarsuvat the match-fixing investigation that landed Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım in jail is linked to conservative cleric Fethullah Gülen:

“Fethullah (Gülen) grubu, Aziz Yıldırım’dan 50 milyon dolar istedi. Aziz Yıldırım da Fenerbahçe de bu parayı vermedi. Ondan sonra malum süreç başladı…. Henüz sonlanmayan bir süreç!”

“The Fethullah [Gülen] group asked Aziz Yıldırım for 50 million dollars and Aziz Yıldırım and Fenerbahçe didn’t give this money. That’s when the process started…a process that has yet to end!”

On December 25, 2014 former Turkish Police Chief Hanefi Avci, author of a book that outlines the links between Gülen and the Turkish Police force, spoke on Haber Turk TV about the match fixing case and underlined this connection:

“Aziz Yıldırım’a haksızlık yapıldı. Yapılan tüm operasyonlar cemaatin kontrolünde yapıldı. Aziz Yıldırım bir dönem NATO ihalelerini yöneten kişi olarak biliniyordu. Cemaat Aziz Yıldırım’ı buradan çıkarmak istiyordu. Cemaat organları Aziz Yıldırım’ı hedef gösteriyordu.”

“What was done to Aziz Yildirim was wrong. All the operations where made under the Cemaat’s control. Aziz Yildirim was known as the one who ran the NATO bidding [Industrial companies that Mr. Yildirim owns shares in took defense contracts for the Turkish Army and thereby NATO]. The Cemaat wanted to get Aziz Yıldırım out of here. The Cemaat showed Aziz Yıldırım as the target.”

The link between Mr. Gülen and Mr. Yıldırım has been posited before, most notably by Professor James M. Dorsey. At the time Mr. Yıldırım himself viewed the investigation as a struggle between Mr. Gülen and Mr. Erdoğan, since the latter is a Fenerbahçe fan who had stood up to the Gülen group’s attack on Fenerbahçe. Now, however, it seems like things may have changed; Sporx.com released a few pages from the match fixing case’s files on December 12 which described the Fenerbahçe fans who gathered outside the courthouse in support of Mr. Yıldırım during his hearings as “a group that calls themselves Fenerbahçe fans [but are] actually a group made up of provocative elements looking to create tension and violence in the community”. Mr. Dorsey also mentioned this possibility in his article:

In standing up for Mr. Yildirim, Mr. Erdogan hoped to garner support among millions of fans of Fenerbahce, the crown political jewel in Turkish soccer. Many of those fans however joined supporters of Istanbul arch rivals Besiktas JK and Galatasary SK in manning the front lines last June in mass anti-government demonstrations. Mr. Erdogan’s government has since sought to criminalize militant fan groups.”

While Mr. Gülen’s possible role in the events is indeed plausible, the fact that it has now been said by a member of the Galatasaray club is a notable development; it furthers the divide between Mr. Gülen and Fenerbahçe supporters and puts Mr. Erdoğan in a positive light, confirming him as one who was not against Fenerbahçe and Mr. Yıldırım. Therefore the invitation to Ak Saray may be some sort of a reward for the club and a move by President Erdoğan to ingratiate himself to Galatasaray supporters who support him politically as well. When taken in the context of the files obtained by Sporx.com and the government’s possible shifting view on Fenerbahçe and their fans post-Gezi, it might also be President Erdoğan’s attempt to consolidate his influence on one of Turkey’s leading clubs—Galatasaray—whose fans where divided during the Gezi events. With Beşiktaş’s fans staunchly in the opposition camp, and Fenerbahçe’s fans labeled as at least moving in that direction, perhaps it is Galatasaray that the Turkish leader is looking to gain popular support from for now. After all, falling foul of the football fans can have devastating consequences.

Aydinspor 1923 2012-2013 Away Shirt (96 Yunuscan)

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My unending thanks go to the good folks at Aydinspor 1923 for this amazingly chic shirt. Solid black shirts with no sponsor are a rarity these days, and this one proves the value of a well-designed shirt that eschews a sponsor. Such a design has the added bonus of really showcasing the team’s interesting badge, which reminds me of Greece’s Panathinaikos. This shirt was worn by the young Yunuscan Bozkir who just signed his first professional contract last year (http://www.milliyet.com.tr/yunuscan-iki-yillik-imzaladi-aydin-yerelhaber-143726/); for pictures of the shirt used in match action please see the two photos below. One is sponsored, the other unsponsored:

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Image Courtesy Of: http://haberciniz.biz/aydinspor-1923-taraftari-takimini-deplasmanda-yalniz-birakmadi-1933512h.htm

aydinspor-1923-eli-bos-dondu-IHA-20130929AW000017-1-t

Image Courtesy Of: http://www.nazillihavadis.com/aydinspor-1923-eli-bos-dondu-6482h.htm

Adnan Menderes Stadium, Aydin, Turkey — Aydinspor 1923

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The Adnan Menderes Stadium is the biggest stadium in Turkey’s Aegean Province of Aydin with a capacity of 10,988 (although Wikipedia will tell you its capacity is 15,000). It is a fairly modern stadium home to Aydinspor 1923, currently playing in the third tier of Turkish football. The previous incarnation of Aydinspor 1923—“real” Aydinspor—were dissolved in 2011 after falling to the amateur ranks but they played in this stadium during their appearances in the Turkish top flight from 1990-93 (including a famous 1-6 victory over Turkish giants Fenerbahce on 26 August 1990, to this day still the biggest loss Fenerbahce have ever suffered in their home stadium).

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Image Courtesy Of: http://dobrayorum.blogspot.com/2010/08/fenerbahce-tarihinde-bugun-26-agustos.html

 

The Adnan Menderes Stadium was built in 1950 with the name Aydin Sehir (City) Stadium before being renamed in August 1980 after former Prime Minister Adnan Menderes. Prime Minister Menderes was a controversial figure as the founder of the fourth legal opposition party of Turkey—the Democrat Party—and led Turkey from 1950 to 1960. Under his rule Turkey modernized rapidly and joined NATO, but many of his reforms were seen as going against Ataturk’s ideals and the Istanbul Pogrom—where many Greek homes and businesses where destroyed—remain a dark spot on his legacy. After the 1960 Military coup Prime Minister Menderes was deposed and, on September 17 1961, executed despite pleas for his pardon by many including US President John F. Kennedy.

But politics and history can move in different directions, and those who die at the gallows can go on to become martyrs; Prime Minister Menderes and those under him where posthumously pardoned 29 years to the day on September 17 1990. His name now lives on at the Aydin Adnan Menderes UniversityIzmir Adnan Menderes Airport, and the Aydin Adnan Menderes Stadium:

 

 

Bonus: On the way back from the Stadium–with my Aydınspor 1923 shirt in hand–I was treated with a beautiful rainbow rising over the hills of Aydin province’s Söke district:

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Notes From the çArşı Hearing of December 17 2014: A Shift in the Relationship Between Football and Politics in Turkey?

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On Wednesday December 17 the first hearing for 35 members of the Beşiktaş ultra group çArşı accused of attempting a coup started with one of the first mass gatherings of the government’s diverse opponents since the Gezi Protests of June 2013. In trying to finish çArşı off the government may have unwittingly re-ignited the flames of opposition; perhaps that is why the timing of the December 14 operation against opposition media outlets aligned with Fethullah Gülen is not a coincidence.

Outside the courthouse in Çağlayan fans came to support çArşı in a show of football supporter solidarity. Alongside the familiar left wing Ultra groups of Istanbul’s Fenerbahçe (Sol Açık) and Galatasaray (Tek Yumruk) were fans of Izmir’s famous Karşıyaka and Göztepe in addition to fans of the worker’s teams Kardemir Çelik Karabükspor and Adana Demirspor.

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(Image Courtesy of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/spor/164211/cArsi_darbeye_karsi.html)

But football fans weren’t the only ones out on the streets; the family of Berkin Elvan, the anti-capitalist Muslims, and LBGT groups all came to show their support as well—as the writer Erk Acarer correctly notes, this is perhaps the first time such groups have come together since Gezi.

Inside the case had to be moved to a bigger courtroom in order to fit all the supporters who yelled the traditional Beşiktaş chant “Gücüne güç katmaya geldik, formanda ter olmayana geldik, Beşiktaş seninle ölmeye geldik…” (We came to add strength to your strength, we came to be sweat on your jerseys, we came to die with you Beşiktaş…). Indeed, the lawyers had Beşiktaş jerseys on as the accused met the judge with an eagle salute (a favorite of the fans). But what could those present say that hasn’t already been said? “Bu Dava Komik”—“This Case is Hilarious”.

As one writer says, the conversations between the judge and the accused are straight out of a Turkish film—perhaps out of the script of a C-Movie:

 

Evladım TOMA’yı ele geçirdik demişsiniz.

– Hâkim bey, o tarihte ehliyetim yoktu, bisiklete bile binemem ben.. (Koray)

 

– Barış sen Beşiktaşlısın değil mi, çArşı mensubu musun?

– Hayır Fenerbahçeliyim. (Barış)

 

– Örgüt lideri misin, azıcık da olsa darbeye yardım ettin mi?

– ÇArşı’da kimse kimseye emir vermez, biz darbeye de karşıyız, darbe gücümüz olsa Beşiktaş’ı şampiyon yapardık. Telefon kaydı üzerinden değil, somut şeyler üzerinden soru sorun. (Cem Y.)

 

Son apparently you said you took control of a TOMA [the infamous Turkish riot control vehicles].

-Your honor, I didn’t have a driver’s license at that time, I can’t even ride a bike. (Koray)

 

-Barış you’re a Beşiktaş fan right, are you a member of çArşı?

-No I’m a Fenerbahçe fan. (Barış)

 

-Are you the leader of the group, did you help the coup even a little?

-No one in çArşı can give orders to anyone else in çArşı, we are against coups; if we had the strength to start a coup we would make Beşiktaş champions [Indeed Beşiktaş haven’t won the title since 2009]. Don’t ask questions based on phone taps, ask questions based on concrete things. (Cem Y)

 

Aside form the tragicomic facts the truth is that the Turkish government may have miscalculated in regard to the çArşı case; the traditional relationship between football and politics has been turned on its head. In my own thesis I wrote about how the stadium had traditionally been a pressure-valve to release societal tensions within oppressive regimes. What happened in the stadium was controlled in the stadium, and it was better to allow people to vent in the controlled atmosphere of a ninety-minute soccer match. Cumhuriyet columnist Emre Kongar correctly points out this changing relationship in his column Fatima ve Çarşı (Fatima and Çarşı).

There is an old saying that Antonio de Oliveira Salazar ran fascist Portugal with the aid of the “Three Fs”: Futbol, Fatima, and Fado. [Mr. Kongar’s article refers to Spain’s fascist leader Franco as having ran the country with Football, Fiesta, and Fado but the true root of the Three F’s is Salazar’s Portugal; for more on the Three F’s in Portugal please see this external blog post and a French Wikipedia post on the “Triple F” since I unfortunately do not have my football literature with me in Turkey]. The basis of this cynical tactic is simple: to distract the people from the truth of living under an oppressive regime. The football part is simple: Benfica Lisbon had a very successful side in Europe during Salazar’s years. Fatima refers to Catholicism (Karl Marx’s old opiate of the masses) and a town in Portugal where the Virgin Mary was said to have appeared in 1917, while Fado refers to Portugal’s most famous music.

In Turkey it is no secret that the government has used religion and Islam in order to consolidate and mobilize their key supporters in rural Turkey. But football can be, in its own strange way, a religion itself. The sound of 30,000 people chanting in unison can be as powerful as watching pilgrims at a religious shrine; often fans view (and call) trips to historic stadiums like Old Trafford or the San Siro as veritable pilgrimages. And, as Mr. Kongar points out, it is an historic event when one of the “Three F”s—in this case football—transforms itself from being a vehicle for government control into being a vehicle for opposition to the government.

The attempt to silence çArşı was always going to be a dangerous game. As I have noted before, çArşı have done a lot in Turkey to move beyond just being an ultra group to being a real member of civil society. In a note released by çArşı the day of the trial they outlined all that they have done by invoking many literary images:

 

ÖNSÖZ: Kerem ile Aslı, Ferhat ile Şirin, Leylâ ile Mecnûn neyse bizim için BEŞİKTAŞ ile Çarşı da odur…

SONSÖZ: BEŞİKTAŞ

Prologue: What Kerem and Aslı, Ferhat and Şirin, Leyla and Mecnun are, for us that is what BEŞIKTAŞ and Çarşı are…

Epilogue: BEŞIKTAŞ

 

Here çArşı show their literary side, comparing their love for the team to the classic Turkish love stories of the past. And they continue, indirectly responding themselves to the “Three F” tactic:

“Düzen zaten istiyor ki, bir araya geldiğimiz sadece doksan dakikalık bir hayatımız olsun; bu süre zarfında sadece atılan gole sevinip yenilen gole üzülelim. Hayatımız doksan dakika içinde genleşip daralsın, orda başlayıp orda bitsin. Sahanın içinde olanlar dışında ‘görme, duyma, konuşma’ demek istiyorlar. O doksan dakikanın başlama vuruşuna kadar geçen zaman sanki hiç yaşanmamış gibi yok sayılsın. “Hadi şimdi dağılabilirsiniz! Unutun gitsin.” Öyle mi? Oysa bizim bir hayatımız varsa, bu hayat başkalarının hayatıyla mümkündür. Başkalarının hayatına sırt çevirenler, gözlerini kendinden olana çevirir; kendi oğullarını bir hanedan gibi görmenin dışına adım atamazlar. Futbolun insanlara yaydığı kolektif ruh, kolektif hâfıza kendimize dışarıdan bakma şansı verir bize. Bu bakış, insanî değerleri diri tutar. İnsanlığa yapılan yanlışları, kurulan kumpasları görünür kılar. Bizi, birbirimizden haberdar kılar. Haber niteliği olan durum ve olguları korkmadan, cesaretle halkın önüne taşıma sorumluluğu verir.

Bir araya geldiğimiz statlarda, salonlarda aleyhimize çalınan haksız penaltılara isyan edelim, çıkan haksız kırmızı kartlara isyan edelim, ama bu “milletin .mına koyacaz’ diyenlere yol veren düzene isyan etmeyelim! Öyle mi? Yoksul halk çocuklarının bayrağa sarılı tabutlarını unutalım? 12 yaşında vücudundan 13 kurşun çıkarılan çocukları unutalım? Kaşları Kartal kanadı olan Berkin’imizi, güzel yüzlü Ali İsmail’imizi unutalım? Öyle mi? İnsan, biraz da unutmadığı için, daha güzel bir dünyanın mümkün olduğunu hatırladığı için insan değil mi? İnsan, hayatın kanayan yerine baktığı için, sırtını dönmediği için çocuklarının yüzüne utanmadan bakabilir.”

“The system wants our lives to be just the ninety minutes that we come together, and during that time for us to only be happy for the goals scored and be sad for the goals conceded. Our lives should ebb and flow within the space of ninety minutes, our lives should start and end there. They want us to ‘see nothing, hear nothing, and speak nothing’ of the things happening off the field, as if the moments before the kickoff of those ninety minutes count for nothing. ‘Ok, you can go now! Nothing to see here, forget about it’. Is that how it is? But if we have a life, that life is made possible due to other people’s lives. Those who turn their backs on the lives of others, those who look only at those like them, they can’t take a step without looking at their own sons only as their personal dynasty. The collective spirit and collective memory spread by football gives us the chance to look at ourselves from outside. This perspective keeps humane values alive. This makes us look at the wrongs being done to humanity and plots being hatched. It makes us informed of one another. It gives us the responsibility to present news and facts to the people with courage and without fear.

In the stadiums that we come together in we should revolt against the unfair penalties called against us and revolt against the unfair red cards called against us; but we shouldn’t revolt against a system created by those that say “We’re going to F*ck this nation”! Is that how it is? We should forget the flag-wrapped coffins of the children of the impoverished? We should forget the twelve-year old children who have thirteen bullets taken out of their bodies? We should forget our Berkin and his eagle eyebrows, we should forget our Ali Ismail and his handsome face? Is that how it is? Isn’t what makes a person a person the fact that they don’t forget, that they remember that a better world is possible? Because a person can look at where the lifeblood flows without turning their backs, then a person can look at the faces of their children without shame.”

 

“. . . istiyorlar ki doksan dakikanın sonunda doksan gün ofsayt tartışalım, başka da hiç bir şeyi dert edinmeyelim.Statlar bir beşik gibi uykuya doğru sallayıp dursun bizi istiyorlar. Oysa maçlara ara verildiğinde hayat devam ediyordu ve yazın 45 derece sıcakta parke taşı döşeyen işçinin alın terinde kaldı aklımız… “Taşeronlaşmaya, Sendikasızlığa, Kuralsız Çalışmaya Hayır” dedik.

Sen demedin mi?

“ Mayıs: 1 Sermaye: 0 “

“… at the end of ninety minutes they want us to argue about offside for ninety days and not care about anything else. They want the stadiums to rock us to sleep like a cradle. But when there is a break in the matches [during the summer] life goes on and our mind stays with the workers sweating in the 45 degree summer heat laying cobblestones… we said ‘no to subcontracting, no to working without unions and rules’. Didn’t you say it? “May: 1 Capital: 0”.

[NOTE: The coffins wrapped in flags refers to martyred soldiers, Berkin and Ali Ismail refer to young men killed in clashes with police during protests, May:1 Capital: 0 refers to the May 1 Labor Day (Worker’s Holiday)].

 

Whatever the outcome of the çArşı case it is clear that we are witnessing a change in the way that football may come to be viewed by the government in Turkey. What that means, along with the plummeting attendances due to Passolig and poor performances by the national team, remains to be seen. But the fact that the government’s attack on çArşı and Beşiktaş brought such diverse groups back to the streets is still a victory.

 

The next hearing will be April 2, 2015.

 

Video of Turkish MPs supporting çArşı in parliament by wearing Besiktas colors:

CHP Kocaeli MP Mehmet Hilal Kaplan: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/video/video/163758/cArsi_atkisiyla_kursuye_cikti.html

CHP MP Melda Onur: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/foto/foto_galeri/163759/1/CHP_li_Melda_Onur_dan_cArsi_ya_destek.html

Fans Yelling Besiktas Slogans in the Courthouse Halls: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/video/video/163405/Taraftarlar_adliye_koridorunda_bu_sloganlari_atti.html

 

The Full Text (In Turkish) of the cArsi Note is Below, courtesy of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/turkiye/163209/cArsi_dan_aciklama__La_biz_size_n_ettik_.html.

ÖNSÖZ: Kerem ile Aslı, Ferhat ile Şirin, Leylâ ile Mecnûn neyse bizim için BEŞİKTAŞ ile Çarşı da odur…

SONSÖZ: BEŞİKTAŞ

Bize: “Size ne?” diyorlar.

Yıllar önce Fok balıklarının katliamına isyan ettiğimizde güldüler bize. “Size ne?” dediler. Yerdiler bizi, ama bugün sıfatsızın biri çıktı ve size “Fok You !” dedi. O gün yanımızda olsaydın bugün “Fuck You !” diyor olacaktın, bunu unutma!

Düzen zaten istiyor ki, bir araya geldiğimiz sadece doksan dakikalık bir hayatımız olsun; bu süre zarfında sadece atılan gole sevinip yenilen gole üzülelim. Hayatımız doksan dakika içinde genleşip daralsın, orda başlayıp orda bitsin. Sahanın içinde olanlar dışında ‘görme, duyma, konuşma’ demek istiyorlar. O doksan dakikanın başlama vuruşuna kadar geçen zaman sanki hiç yaşanmamış gibi yok sayılsın. “Hadi şimdi dağılabilirsiniz! Unutun gitsin.” Öyle mi? Oysa bizim bir hayatımız varsa, bu hayat başkalarının hayatıyla mümkündür. Başkalarının hayatına sırt çevirenler, gözlerini kendinden olana çevirir; kendi oğullarını bir hanedan gibi görmenin dışına adım atamazlar. Futbolun insanlara yaydığı kolektif ruh, kolektif hâfıza kendimize dışarıdan bakma şansı verir bize. Bu bakış, insanî değerleri diri tutar. İnsanlığa yapılan yanlışları, kurulan kumpasları görünür kılar. Bizi, birbirimizden haberdar kılar. Haber niteliği olan durum ve olguları korkmadan, cesaretle halkın önüne taşıma sorumluluğu verir.

Bir araya geldiğimiz statlarda, salonlarda aleyhimize çalınan haksız penaltılara isyan edelim, çıkan haksız kırmızı kartlara isyan edelim, ama bu “milletin .mına koyacaz’ diyenlere yol veren düzene isyan etmeyelim! Öyle mi? Yoksul halk çocuklarının bayrağa sarılı tabutlarını unutalım? 12 yaşında vücudundan 13 kurşun çıkarılan çocukları unutalım? Kaşları Kartal kanadı olan Berkin’imizi, güzel yüzlü Ali İsmail’imizi unutalım? Öyle mi? İnsan, biraz da unutmadığı için, daha güzel bir dünyanın mümkün olduğunu hatırladığı için insan değil mi? İnsan, hayatın kanayan yerine baktığı için, sırtını dönmediği için çocuklarının yüzüne utanmadan bakabilir.

Rakibin haksız yere oyundan atılmasına olan isyanımız takdire şayan görülür, ama Trabzon’da doğa katliamı rönesansı HES’lere karşı isyanımız tu-kaka öyle mi?

Sporda Şike ve Teşvik söylentileri ayyuka ulaştığında “İtalya’dan futbolcu değil, savcı istiyoruz” dedik. Fena mi ettik? Kötü mü söyledik? İnsan neye ihtiyacı varsa onu istemez mi?

Plüton’a yapılan haksızlığa bile “oha” demişken hâlâ bize “Siz böyle şeylere kafa yormayın” diyorlar, ama bilmezler ki Plüton’u evlatlıktan atanlar bile bugün bin pişman.

İstiyoruz ki, içinde ülkemizin de yer aldığı dünya aynı akıbete uğramasın. Turizm Bakanlığı bütün dünyaya ülkemizin tam bir cennet olduğunu duyurmak isteyen tanıtımlar yapacak, ama biz “Kaz Dağı’nın üstü altından daha değerlidir” dediğimiz zaman hâkim kırmızı kartını bize gösterecek! Öyle mi?

“Yağmurdan korksak sokağa çıkmazdık.” O yüzden dile geldik;

“Siyanür Öldürür!”, “Ferhat da Dağları Deldi Ama Şirin İçin” dedik.

Bizleri doksan dakikanın içine hapsetmek isteyen o düzene Ali Sami Yen’den seslendik; Yıl 2011, “çArşı betona karşı”; “Ali Sami Yen Park Olsun, Şişli Hayat Bulsun”, “Rant Yapma Park Yap”

Gidemediğimiz maçta kulağımız radyoda, gözümüz televizyonda, aklımız Hasankeyf’te kaldı…

Hadi de bakalım şimdi ey zâlim; “Şirin bilseydi Munzur Çayı’nın gizemini Ferhat’ın hali nic’olurdu ?”

Ama yok, istiyorlar ki doksan dakikanın sonunda doksan gün ofsayt tartışalım, başka da hiç bir şeyi dert edinmeyelim.Statlar bir beşik gibi uykuya doğru sallayıp dursun bizi istiyorlar. Oysa maçlara ara verildiğinde hayat devam ediyordu ve yazın 45 derece sıcakta parke taşı döşeyen işçinin alın terinde kaldı aklımız… “Taşeronlaşmaya, Sendikasızlığa, Kuralsız Çalışmaya Hayır” dedik.

Sen demedin mi?

“ Mayıs: 1 Sermaye: 0 “

“çArşı Nükleer Santrallere Karşı”

“Sizin Nükleeriniz Varsa Bizim Metan Gazımız Var”

“Nükleersiz Türkiye”

“Karadeniz Kanserden ölmesin Ulan!”

Sanırsın ki atomu parçaladık da tanrı parçacığının peşine düştük… Oysa değil.

“Ses verin yakarışıma, bu işin sonu fukuşima” dedik o kadar…

“Terörün her türlüsüne hayır” dedik aklımız körpe kuzularda kaldı…

Çocuklarda kaldı aklımız;

“Alayınıza Sobe Ulan” “çArşı çocuk pornosuna karşı”

“çArşı Aile İçi Şiddete de Karşı”

Kışın evsizlerde kaldı aklımız “Donduk ulan!” dedik. Üst katta oturanları, alt kattakinden haberdar kılmaya çalıştık.

“Padişah değilim çeksem otursam

Saraylar kursam da asker yetirsem

Hediyem yoktur ki dosta götürsem

İki damla yaştan gayrı nem kaldı”

Aklımız vicdanımızda kaldı;

Kimsesizlerin kimsesi olmaya gayret ettik. Huzur evlerinde kaldı aklımız; evlat olduk, torun olduk, çiçek olduk, kucak bulduk. Aklımız Çocuk Esirgeme Kurumları’nda kaldı… Oyuncak olduk, palto olduk, bot olduk, kalem olduk, kederi silen silgi olduk, mutluluğa açacak olduk…Kıyıda, tenhada bırakılmış olanları hayatımızın ortasına davet ettik.

Aklımız sokak hayvanlarında kaldı…

“çArşı sokak hayvanlarına koşuyor”; 5 ton kuru/yaş mama, 5 bölgeye mamalık ve su depoları, yaklaşık 500 kulübe ve tıbbi müdahale için birçok ilaç … Ukrayna’daki köpek katliamına karşı da üç maymunu oynamadık.

Ah o çocuklar, yine o çocuklar… LÖSEV’e koştuk, kucaklaştık, umut götürdük onlara, “Bir tuğla da sen koyar mısın? ” dedik ve aklımız lösemili kardeşlerimizde kaldı…

Şimdi bizi yerin dibine gömmek istiyorlar.

Yahu, madenlere indik ki biz! Yeryüzü doksan dakika yukarıda değil ki bizim için. Yeryüzü her yerde:

“540 metrede röveşata! Bu da mı penaltı değil ?”

N’oldu ? Aklımız fikrimiz madenlerde kaldı…

“Ölümün taşeronları hiç mi doymayacak bu siyah kâra”

“Siyah Bile Kaybetmiş Asaletini Yokluğumuzun Karanlığında”

“Soma’nın en orta yerinde büyük bir yangın var alevler içinde”

Bizim de ayakkabımızın altı delikti, “Hrant” olduk. Acının üzerine hep birlikte kapaklandık.

Irkçılığa karşı olduk,”Hepimiz Zenciyiz” dedik.

Bize kapak takmak istediler, cevabımız “Kapakları Toplayalım Engelleri Aşalım” oldu. Sıradanlaşmış, kurumsallaşmış kutlama haftalarının dışında ihtiyacı olan yurttaşlarımıza 60’ı manüel, 4’ü akülü olmak üzere toplam 64 arabayı semtte sergiledik teslim ettik. “Bu da Çarşı’nın Koreografisi” dedik.

Aklımız ihtiyaç sahiplerinde kaldı.

Aklımız 8 Konteynır ve 1 tır malzeme ile “Sokağın TaVanı Kadar”

Akıl Van’da kaldı…Karada, karakışta kaldı.

Şirince’de ”Kıyamet Seninle Kopmaya Geldik”

La biz size n’ettik?

Bütün Türkiye’de Kızılay’a oluk olduk kan olduk aktık, ama bizim aklımız acil kan aranıyor çığlıklarında kaldı…

Aklımız hâlâ Filistinli Hanzala’da…

“Çocuklar Okusun” diye 10 günde 25 okula 25 kütüphane projesine destek verdik… Aklımız Kütüphanelerde kaldı…Kâğıtlara hürmet etmekten bir an geri durmadık.

“çArşı Köy Okullarına Koşuyor”

İki yılda isim isim 550 okul 20 binin üzerinde çocuğumuza bot, mont, atkı, bere, çanta, kıyafet, oyuncak, kırtasiye olduk olmasına da aklımız hâlâ köy okullarında…

Biz siporu seviyoruz sevmesine de, daha dün ses olduğumuz tiyatro yıkımlarına karşı bugün eski güreş hakeminin, zabıta müdürünün şehir tiyatrolarına sufle vereceğini tahmin etmemiştik. Bunca yağdanlığın, dalkavuğun gölgesinde ata sporuna işmar çakmayı nasıl unuturduk: “çArşı, yağsız güreşe de karşı” dedik.

Ulu Kartal, kimseleri darbecilere, terör örgütlerine methiyeler düzmek, yardım ve yataklık yapmak zorunda bırakmasın.

Vicdanınızla kalın!

Capital City Blues: Cebeci Inönü Stadyumu, Ankara, Turkey (Ankara Demirspor); Ankara Demirspor-Anadolu Uskudarspor (0-2) BONUS: Ankara Demirspor Home Shirt 2012-13

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Walking down Ankara’s Dikmen Boulevard you know you are in a capital city. The drab blocks of government buildings go on for as far as the eye can see. The General Directorate of the Police. The Finance Ministry. The Coast Guard. The Department of Navy. (The Irony of the last two being located in a land locked city in central Anatolia not withstanding). The Parliament. The Prime Minister’s Residence. The State Water Management. The Highway Department. Its all here. I shudder at the thought of the red tape that must line the hallways of those drab buildings as I walk on towards Kizilay Square, the center of life in the capital.

I walk on down the streets in the shadows of the state apparatus to the Cebeci Inonu Stadium. Built in 1967 it was Ankara’s first large stadium and, with a capacity of 37,000, it is surprisingly Turkey’s sixth biggest. Of course, I would later learn that at least half of that capacity is unusable due to urban decay—but the facts are the facts, according to the Turkish Football Federation.

Crossing from the Cankaya into Cebeci district it feels like a time warp. Even the Uludag Gazoz signs on the coffee houses remind me of a bygone Turkey, the Turkey I grew up in.

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The stadium is a forlorn sight rising into the blue sky ahead of me as I delicately traverse the crumbling steps. It looks like a bomb exploded somewhere nearby and I’m unsure of what to expect as I walk beneath the rusting sign that reads “Inonu Stadyumu”. I pay my three Lira for a ticket at a booth that makes me feel like I’m visiting a prison. Once I’m through the obligatory pat down I’m in the stands along with another 17 souls (I counted) on a clear Monday afternoon. I head to the top of the stands and look out at the dilapidated sections of Ankara spreading out below me. All sections of life must live in those apartments, who knows what kinds of marriages and childhoods are being lived? I shudder at the thoughts and turn to back my seat in order to stand at attention for the National Anthem. Its lyrics echo through the emptiness, it feels like a funeral.

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As the match kicks off I can the players yelling instructions to one another, its like I’m on the field. “Come back back BACK!” yells the Ankara Demirspor goalkeeper trying to keep his defense focused. It is no use, and just three minutes in Cagatay Ceken puts the visitors up 0-1. The stands are silent and all the noise comes from the home team’s bench as the irate Ankara Demirspor coach attempts to rush the field, held back by his assistants. The choice words he has for the referee echo through the stadium and up to me but the goal will not be disallowed.

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After the first ten minutes a few more fans trickle in, including a small group of young kids who could only be playing hookey for this rare weekday afternoon fixture. With nothing much to watch on the pitch I turn my attention to the moss growing out of the concrete stands, thinking to myself that it must be a rare species.

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At half time I head down to the gates for a water but, alas, there is no café. In fact, there is just a gate with a few security guards who look bored out of their minds. I ask for water and the female shrugs.

“Its outside, but I can get you some. It costs a Lira”.

I hand her the coin between the metal bars and she returns, handing me a plastic cup. As I drink it down eagerly, I watch a fellow fan pass some money through the bars for a simit, a sesame covered bagel. I think that this is what prison must feel like.

“There is no system like this,” says the male security guard looking at me.

“There is no stadium like this,” is my reply and we both laugh.

 

Indeed there is not be. Even the concourses feel like a prison, despite the sunlight flowing through. I take the halftime break to explore the innards of the stadium—the chipped paint tells me that this stadium’s days are numbered. I’m just glad to have gotten the chance to visit another place that will soon fall victim to the urban renewal sweeping Turkey, such demolition and construction serve as ready sources of income for a government looking for investment to keep the economy going.

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The second half witnesses a few more fans in the stands, taking the total to just over 70 (again, I counted). Sadly the extra support fails to jump-start the Ankara Demirspor players who seem to be stuck in third gear—it is surprising, since the team is currently in the playoff spots. Ankara Demirspor pay for their inability to turn the screw and Uskudar Anadolu add a second goal in the 74th minute through Seyit Ali Akgul. Down by two goals the fans know that there will be no return and decide to spend their energy berating the team—what else can they do?

After the final whistle I head to the player’s exit in order to inquire about an Ankara Demirspor shirt. As one of Turkey’s most famous teams (they were founding members of Turkish football’s top tier for its first season in 1958-59). I felt like it would be a necessary addition to the collection, and I make an appointment to meet one of the team’s officials the next morning at the Ankara Demirspor grounds.

 

As befitting such an historic team, Ankara Demirspor’s history is fascinating. There are two interesting Turkish Language websites that outline the histories of all of Turkey’s various “Demirspors”: http://www.kentvedemiryolu.com/icerik.php?id=301 and http://demirsporlar.blogspot.com.tr. My thanks to Mr. Yavuz Yildirim and the blogger Mustava for their valuable insights, some of which I will translate for English language readers below:

Ankara Demirspor were founded in 1930, but at that time there were already a few Demirspors in Turkey. Such teams are, of course, the teams of the railways. In many ways they are similar to the eastern European railway teams such as Lokomotiv Moscow, Lokomotiv Sofia, Lokomotiv Plovdiv, Locomotive Tblisi, CFR Cluj (Romania), and Zeljeznicar Sarajevo to name a few. As Yavuz Yildirim notes, the such Demirspors were a critical way of tying the country together after the founding of the new republic in 1923 since they connected the industrial strength of an emerging country to the cultural aspect of a sports club becoming a symbol of the country’s modernization. Generally, these clubs were formed in major cities along the rail network according to the 26th element of the Youth and Sports General Directorate law numbered 3289 (it is still in effect today) which states “factories and foundations with more than 500 officers or workers must make sports facilities and hire a coach for the physical education of their personnel.” (“memur ve işçi sayısı 500’den fazla olan kuruluşlar ve fabrikalar, öncelikle kendi personeline beden eğitimi ve spor yaptırmak için spor tesisleri yapmaya ve antrenör tutmaya mecburdurlar.”). The reason for such a law was simple: To keep the country’s youth fit in order to preform national guard duties in interwar period of instability—in many ways this is similar to the rationale in the former Soviet Union for the formation of Lokomotiv, Torpedo, Dynamo, and CSKA teams which were all tied to important industries and entities critical to the state (Please see my article on the history of Lokomotiv Plovdiv for more on this).

According to Yavuz Yildirim’s piece there were (in 2007) 38 Demirspors throughout Turkey. The same article claims that in 1942 the following Demirspors were in operation: Haydarpaşa, Derince, İzmit, Bilecik; Ankara, Irmak, Çankırı, Karabük, Çatalağzı, Zonguldak; Balıkesir, Bandırma, Soma, Tavşanlı, Kütahya; Kayseri, Sivas, Zile; Samsun, Çetinkaya, Divrik, Yerköy; Malatya, Diyarbakır, Maden; Adana, Fevzipaşa, Mersin, İskenderun, Ulukışla, Afyon, Konya , Uşak; İzmir, Manisa, Alaşehir, Nazilli, Çamlık; Denizli, Dinar; Sirkeci, Edirne; Erzurum; Sarıkamış, Erzincan; Eskişehir; Mudanya; Edremit. Alongside these cities various other Demirspors are in operation currently, such as Kars Demirspor and Kocaeli Demirspor—they all play in the amateur leagues of their respective provinces. Of the Demirspors, only Ankara Demirspor and their famous cousin—Adana Demirspor—are in the professional leagues.

 

On Tuesday morning I am at the Ankara Demirspor grounds before lunch. A sign advertising the team’s wedding packages greets me. Who (other than maybe me) would want to get married at a soccer team’s grounds by the Ankara Region train depot is beyond me but, I suppose, some people have interesting tastes. Since I won’t be getting married any time soon, I hope they find people to fill the reservations as I walk on past the train repair yard trying to avoid a couple stray dogs that are looking a bit too menacing.

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Inside the offices I meet the team’s personnel manager for a tea and am presented with an amazing Ankara Demirspor shirt. The TCDD (Turkish Republic State Railways) sponsor is fitting, along with a rear sponsor from the Ulastirma Bakanligi (Ministry of Transportation). The colors are striking and top off a truly amazing shirt. I send my unending thanks to all the folks at Ankara Demirspor for the tea and the shirt, truly Turkish hospitality at its best.

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Ex Footballer Hakan Şükür Again at the Center of Turkish Political News

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It feels as if former Galatasaray legend Hakan Şükür is making as much news in his retirement as he did in his playing days. In an article released in the Cumhuriyet daily on December 6 2014, Erdem Gül cites a new book– Adil Düzenden Havuz Düzenine-Yüzde On—written by Ahmet Dönmez who claims that, of all people, Hakan Şükür was indirectly warned about the December 17 graft operation six months before the scandal shook Turkey one year ago.

Although the Erdoğan led government claimed to have known nothing about the operation that uncovered 4.5 million dollars stashed in shoeboxes in the home of an ex-banker and that had links to the sons of many prominent AKP ministers and businessmen, the new information that has since come to light may say otherwise.

In the wake of the corruption scandal the AKP—predictably—did not suffer too much (the prosecutor dropped the investigation October 17) but the case opened a rift between the AKP government and erstwhile ally Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States. Hakan Şükür, being close to the cleric, was the obvious choice to act as a liaison between the parties, and it is his role which may shed some light on the reason that the AKP did not suffer as much as many thought they would.

There have been claims that Turkey’s national intelligence agency, MIT, warned then Prime Minister Erdoğan about the corruption allegations ahead of time (last January Today’s Zaman said as much). Now Mr. Dönmez’s book supports this as well. Egemen Bağış, Turkey’s European Union Minister, allegedly spoke to Hakan Şükür before a pro Erdoğan rally during the Gezi protests on June 16, 2013:

“Herkes oradaydı. Erdoğan’ın anonsçusu Orhan Karakurt alana gelen milletvekili ve bakanları meydandaki partililere takdim ediyordu. O sırada AB Bakanı Egemen Bağış, İstanbul Mileltvekili Hakan Şükür’ü kolundan tutarak kenara çekti. (…) ‘Sana yeri gelmişken bir şey söyleyeceğim’ dedi. Şükür kulak kesilmişti. Bağış şöyle devam etti: ‘Ya Hakancığım, ortalıkta bir sürü şey dolaşıyor. Efendim, bakanlarla milletvekilleriyle ilgili birçok bilgi belge varmış. Bazı yolsuzluk belgeleri bulunuyormuş. Bak yarın bir gün bunlar ortaya çıkar, partiyle cemaatin arası bozulur. Bunu nasıl yapacağız? Bir şekilde Fethullah Hocaya ulaştırmak lazım. Çok konuşuluyor bu. Hatta bazı şerefsizler yapar bunu, cemaatin üzerine atarlar. Bunu engellemek lazım.’”

Kitapta Bağış’ın bu sözlerine Şükür’ün “Sayın Bakanım, ortaya çıkıp çıkmadığı, kim tarafından çıkarıldığı değil, bence böyle bir şeyin olup olmadığı önemli. İnşallah bu dedikodular doğru değildir, bu tür yolsuzluklar, belgeler yoktur” karşılığını verdiği belirtildi.

Everyone was there. At that point Erdoğan’s speaker Orhan Karakurt was introducing the ministers and parliament members to the party members that had come to the square. Mr Bağış took Hakan Şükür aside and said (…)“Now that we’re here I need to tell you something. Hakan, some things are floating around. Apparently there are lots of files about ministers and parliament members. Apparently there are some corruption files. Look, tomorrow or the next day this could come out and hurt the party and cemaat’s [Mr. Gülen’s supporters] relationship. How are we going to do this? We need to some how get this [news] to Fethullah Hoca. This is being talked about a lot. In fact some inglorious people could do this and blame it on the cemaat [Mr. Gulen’s supporters]. We need to prevent this.

The book says that Mr. Şükür replied by saying “Esteemed minister, its not important if these things come out or not, or who releases it, I think what is important is whether or not this happened. Inşallah these rumors aren’t true and that these types of corruption and files don’t exist.”

 

The Cumhuriyet newspaper reports that when reached for comment Mr. Şükür confirmed the story, saying that “. . . The MIT report came out eight months prior, they were probably trying to keep this [the corruption files] from coming out”. Mr. Bağış, on the other hand, refused comment but has told those close to him that “none of this [the reports] is true”. We will, of course, never know the full truth but it remains of interest that Mr. Şükür was seen as such a key player in the process. I wrote before how his joining the AKP was a coup for the party since he is an admittedly popular personage in Turkey due to his exploits on the field. Aside from that, his relationship to Mr. Gülen was another important factor that led to his rising to such a prominent place in the party. Now of course he has left the party in the wake of the rift between Mr. Erdoğan and Mr. Gülen, but the reverberations of his time in politics are still being felt.

 

Note: All Translations Are Mine, I Apologize In Advance For Any Errors.

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