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Attack on Fenerbahçe’s Team Bus Raises Many Questions: What is Happening in Turkey?

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On the night of Saturday April 4, 2015, the bus carrying Turkey’s Fenerbahçe football team fell under attack on the way back from a convincing 5-1 victory over Rizespor. Subsequent reports said that the attack involved stones and—interestingly—two shots from a hunting rifle, according to Abdulcelil Öz, the governor of Trabzon. This attack, which occurred on the Sürmene-Araklı highway between Rize and Trabzon, is unprecedented in Turkish football history. The side window of the bus was shattered while the front window was damaged in five spots. The driver, Ufuk Kıran, was seriously injured by a gunshot wound to the face and is currently in stable condition. Now, the obvious question is why did such an attack happen? In Turkey it is relatively common for team busses to be attacked with stones by rival supporters, but such a confirmed and violent armed attack has—to my recollection—never happened. To dig deeper into this tragic event it is worth looking into the past week in Turkey that has been uncharacteristically violent.

_82130416_bullet2 _82130412_bullet4 _82130418_fenerbahce_getty _82130415_bullet3

Images Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/sport/0/football/32187388

 

On Tuesday the week started with a massive blackout that plunged most of the country into darkness. Officially, the blame was put on two plants in Izmir and Adana that severed Turkey’s connection with the European power grid. The same day, prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz who was investigating police in connection to the death of 15 year-old Berkin Elvan last March was taken hostage in an Istanbul court and shot by members of The Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). Police also killed the hostage takers belonging to the Marxist organization when they stormed the office. The next day, April 1 2015, police shot a woman carrying guns and hand grenades when she tried to attack Istanbul’s police headquarters in the Istanbul district of Aksaray. On the same day an armed man was detained by police after breaking in to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) office building on Istanbul’s Asian side in the Kartal district and hanging a Turkish flag with a sword on it from the window.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/armed-man-detained-after-breaking-into-akp-building-in-istanbul.aspx?PageID=238&NID=80440&NewsCatID=341

 

Interestingly, before the woman’s attack in Aksaray, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu warned of the risk of “provocations” saying “We are aware that we face an axis of evil and there is an attempt to instigate an atmosphere of chaos ahead of the election.” While the rhetoric of an “Axis of Evil” is similar to that of former U.S. President George Bush, Mr. Davutoğlu was not so kind as to enlighten us as to who (or what) exactly this “axis” consists of. In the void, many Turks on social media chose to make their own interpretations. An entry on popular online forum Ekşi Sözlük—the Sour Times—had this to say on the DHKP-C:

yılda bir iki defa adlarını duyarsınız. iktidarın en sıkıştığı dönem ortaya çıkarlar ve ortaya çıktıklarında sebep oldukları tek şey chp ve solcu partileri halkın gözünde sıfırlayıp iktidarı halkın gözünde yükseltmek.

You’ll hear their name once or twice a year. They’ll appear at a time that the administration [ruling party, read: AKP] are most in trouble and the only reason they’ve appeared is to discredit the CHP [Main opposition party] and other leftist parties in the eyes of the public and raise the stature of the administration [ruling party] in the eyes of the public.

 

While I’m not a fan of conspiracy theories this interpretation doesn’t seem too far-fetched to me—especially in light of current events. Why would this leftist group take hostage a prosecutor investigating the role of police in Berkin Elvan’s death? To me, this simply does not make sense—and it wouldn’t, at least in the immediate term—seem to serve the DHKP-C’s interests either. So are they just a government scapegoat, involved in false-flag operations in order to provide an excuse for further government crackdowns?

On Monday, April 6 2015 we may have come closer to an answer. Social media sites in Turkey—including Twitter, Youtube, and Facebook—were blocked. Even search engine Google was part of the ban according to Al-Jazeera. Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin gave the reason for the ban in comments cited by Reuters, saying that “some media organisations had acted ‘as if they were spreading terrorist propaganda’ in sharing the images of the hostage-taking.” This is, of course, not the first time social media has been banned in Turkey. It happened last March in the run up to local elections. This time a similar ban was necessitated not by elections but because of last week’s events. But even this may not be unrelated to elections.

 

Ex Fenerbahçe star and popular Turkish football pundit Rıdvan Dilmen made comments on his program “Yüzde Yüz Futbol” (One Hundred Percent Football) on NTV Sports that resonated throughout Turkey:

. . . Bu ciddi bir problem. Son 7 günü bir düşünelim neler olduğunu; çok uzağa gitmeyelim. Elektrik kesintisi, Emniyet Müdürlüğü’ne saldırı, rahmetli olan savcının durumu, dünkü olay… Sonra yargılamalarda mesela; Çarşı Grubu’nun yargılanması var…

Bu bir sportif olay değil, bunun kupayla bilmem neyle de ilgisi yok. Bu 3 Temmuz sürecinden önce de Fenerbahçe-Trabzon maçları gergin geçerdi. Benim dönemimde de gergin geçerdi.

Ben açıkçası bu yaza kadar, seçime kadar böyle şeylerin olabileceğini düşünüyorum. Çünkü yaşananlar bunu gösteriyor…

…This is a serious problem. Let’s think in the last seven days what all has happened; let’s not go too far back. The blackout, the attack on Police headquarters, the deceased prosecutor, yesterday’s events [the attack on Fenerbahçe’s bus]…Then the trials for instance, there is the trial of the Çarşı Group…

 This is not a sporting incident, this has nothing to do with the cup or I don’t know what else. Before the events of 3 July [The matchfixing scandal that targeted Fenerbahçe in 2011 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Turkish_sports_corruption_scandal)] Fenerbahçe -Trabzon matches were tense. They were tense in my time [as a player] too. Honestly I think that until this summer, until the election, things like this might happen. Because what has happened shows this…

 

It is important to note that Mr. Dilmen is right. Matches between Fenerbahçe -Trabzonspor have always been tense, and fans of Trabzonspor were known in the 1990s to fire guns into the air in celebration. A Turkish language football blog, Dobrayorum, put together a small history of violent episodes during and following Fenerbahçe Trabzonspor matches. There are examples from the 1974-75 season, 1978-79 season, and even a similar bus attack (one player claimed a gun was used then as well) from the 1984-85 season. But those events were all, seemingly, standard football hooliganism; they all happened after Fenerbahçe either won (1974-75) or tied with a late goal (1978-79 and 1984-85) at Trabzonspor’s famously intimidating stadium. The events of Saturday night did not happen after a hotly contested Fenerbahçe-Trabzonspor derby (Look to 2010 for an example), instead they happened after a comfortable Fenerbahçe victory against Trabzonspor’s local rivals Rizespor. It doesn’t add up.

ScreenHunter_29 May. 11 22.49 14_Nisan_1985_Trabzonspor_Fenerbah_e_ma_ 17_Eyl_l_1978_Trabzonspor_Fenerbah_e_ma_

The first two images are from 4 April 1985 (Suspiciously coincidentally, exactly 30 years to the date of Saturday night’s attack), the second image is from 17 September 1978. Images Courtesy Of: http://dobrayorum.blogspot.com/2012/05/biraz-geciklemli-de-olsa-bu-satrlarn.html

 

Is the government looking to create an atmosphere of chaos ahead of the June elections, in a bid to show that only a continuation of the ruling AKP party can provide security and stability in the country? In some people’s minds, this is exactly what is happening. Keep in mind the newly passed security laws in Turkey (for a detailed outline of the new internal security package please see Al-Monitor) that have been widely criticized as draconian and anti-European. It is clear that the government is prepared to go to any length to prevent a repeat of the June 2013 Gezi protests.

 

Meanwhile, there will be no football this week in Turkey. Following the attack Fenerbahçe called for the league to be suspended but initially Interior Minister Sebahattin Öztürk told reporters that there was no need to stop football in the country. On Monday, April 6 2015, the Turkish Football Federation announced a one-week suspension of all league and cup matches in Turkey.

Something is amiss in Turkey and it seems even sport is not immune from it. I hope that someone finds an answer to the problem before it is too late. The country has become polarized to an alarming degree, and this sickening attack is no exception. Following the Gezi protests football fans were united, it even sparked a documentary. Now, some fans of Fenerbahçe’s rivals have distastefully taken to social media to voice their support of the attack by noting all the past violent incidents involving Fenerbahçe and their fans. Perhaps the government was alarmed at the brewing solidarity among football fans in support of Beşiktaş’s Çarşı group, and the bond the Ultras made with their society, and wanted to end the nascent unity. Or maybe it was provincial football fans committing an (albeit advanced) act of hooliganism. Or maybe it is just a couple deranged maniacs who decided to organize this despicable attack on their own. In my mind—and, it seems, also in the mind of Mr. Dilmen—the facts just don’t add up in support of the latter two possibilities and produce a clear picture of what happened yet.

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.

cArsi

(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!

Turkish Football Fans Accused of Attempting to Bring Down the Government

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Yesterday the Istanbul public prosecutor’s office for terrorism and organized crime investigations announced the results of a year long investigation of the Beşiktaş Ultra group Çarşı for their role in last summer’s Gezi Park protests. Previously, I had written extensively about the Çarşı group following the events one year ago during the Galatasaray-Beşiktaş derby. The results of the investigation would be humorous if they were not all too real. After all The Onion didn’t announce it, CNN Turk did. The thirty eight-page indictment calls for life sentences for thirty five members of the Çarşı group, including one of the founders, “Sari” Cem Yakışkan and “Deve” Erol Özdil, who makes the groups famous banners. The charge? Attempt to bring down the Government.

The indictment says that “at first the Gezi Park protests started in a democratic fashion before the motives of the protests changed when ‘marginal’ groups joined. These marginal groups then encouraged the protestors in Taksim against the government, aiming to bring it down through non-democratic means.” It continues, saying that Çarşı brought foreign press officers to the protests “in order to show the world media scenes that would create an image similar to that of the ‘Arab Spring’, calling for leadership change and bringing down the Turkish Republic’s legally founded government by illegal means”.

Apparently proof of this attempt to bring down the government comes from telephone conversations and Tweets. Allegedly, some such telephone conversations contained statements such as “I don’t care about the park”, “We will bring down this government” and “This could turn into a civil war,” among other things. To me, such words seem to hardly be the makings of a plan to bring down the Turkish Republic but apparently the prosecutor’s office sees things differently.

 

Today an MP from the opposition CHP, Umut Oran (himself an ex-footballer, according to the story) brought the issue before the Turkish Parliament in order to get a response from the new Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu. Mr. Oran asked many questions that I myself would like to hear the answers to:

–“If Çarşı encouraged a coup during the Gezi events, then why did you [your party, the AKP] allow Çarşı signs to be opened at the [pro-government] rallies in Kazlıçeşme at that time? Are there no AKP members within the ‘pro-coup’ Çarşı Group, and will anything be done to them if there are found to be any?”

–“Does the Istanbul Police department not have pictures and audio of the Çarşı group when they yelled ‘Çarşı Darbeye Karşı’ (Carsi against coups) and carried signs to the same effect?”

carsi_bildiri_yayinladi_carsi_12_eylule_karsi_h2992

(Image courtesy of: http://www.sonkulis.com/gundem/carsi-bildiri-yayinladi-carsi-12-eylule-karsi-h2992.html. Author’s Note: Indeed, the proof Mr. Oran asked for does exist–this refers to Carsi’s stance against the military coup of September 12, 1980).

–Is it not our [the Turkish] government that does not designate ISIS as a terrorist group, the same group that the United Nations and the United States have designated as a terrorist group for their savage actions? Is it not contradictory that our government, that calls ISIS ‘Angry Youths’, should take such a harsh stance when it comes to the Çarşı Group?”

–Members of the AKP cabinet of ministers and party leaders said the Gezi events were ‘just the work of a few ‘çapulcus’ (looters) and that it is nothing to be blown out of proportion’. Then how is it possible that today it has come to the point of ‘attempted coup?’

–“When Mr. Davutoğlu was Minister of Foreign affairs he stated to foreign leaders that ‘we are proud that these protests in Turkey are taking place in a similar fashion to those in Europe’. How is it then possible to indict these protests as an attempted coup?’

 

Later Çarşı’s lawyer, Mehmet Derviş Yıldız, made a press announcement in the middle of Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district:

“We have always existed in the name of this country’s conscience. We were created in 1982 in the period following the [1980] military coup amidst martial law, and continued in periods of coalition governments and with our conscience stood in society alongside everyone who saw no preferential treatment from any group. There were times that we donated our blood to blood drives, there were times that we gave the clothes off our backs to those living in tents amidst the rubble of their destroyed homes. In the Gezi protests—that our whole society reacted to with a mix of sadness and surprise—we drew attention to the disproportional use of force and uncontrollable violence being used. We called for this violence not to escalate. And in return for this, immediately after the first arrests, some people—with hate and jealousy—had the face to label us as mercenary protestors. And now we see this label on the pages of the investigation.” He went on to explain that it was Civil servants who first called on Çarşı to de-escalate the tension, to use their influence on the neighborhood as football fans—in a way, a civil society group—in order to stop people from entering Taksim Square during the protests. But, in the end, they are the ones who are blamed in a blatant attempt to further make every segment of Turkish society political.

But such attempts to make everything political can also have the side effect of waking people up, and banding them together. This became evident when fans of Besiktas’s rivals—Fenerbahce—also voiced their support. Sol Acik wrote:

 “Faşizme karşı kardeşimsin çArşı”

“You’re my brother against fascism çArşı”

 

Sadly, these events have not seen much coverage in English language press but they are a very real sign of regression in the Turkish justice system. That life sentences should be sought for a group of football fans is, quite truly, unbelievable. As one of those named in the indictment, founding member of Çarşı Cem Yakışkan said today:

 “Dünyada herhalde bir ilktir. Darbe ile suçlanan taraftar grubu. Gülelim mi, ağlayalım mı bilmiyorum.”

“This is probably a first in the entire world. A fan group charged with a coup attempt. I don’t know if we should laugh or cry”.

Indeed, it probably is a first. That it comes in a country that knows all too well about coups—three to be exact—only makes it more shocking.

 

To pull this topic out of football, I will close with a some words that come from a few members of Çarşı who sat down with journalist Erk Acarer for the Turkish paper Cumhuriyet since they are worth hearing. For me, they truly show the gravity of the situation:

“Türkiye isyan etti ihale bize kaldı. Bu kitlesel bir hareketti. çArşı vicdan sahibi bir gruptur. Biz büyük iş yapmadık aslında. Toplum ‘mute’ tuşunda olduğu zamanlarda da biz ‘titreşimdeydik’. Üşüyen çocuklara atkı gönderdiğimiz, haksıza karşı haklının yanında olduğumuz ağaçlara dokunma dediğimiz için zaten yıllarca çıban başı olarak görüldük. Söylemlerimiz sistemi rahatsız etti. Hiçbir demokratik ülkede protestocular darbe girişimiye yargılanmazlar. Kasti yapıyorlar. Esma’ya ağlayıp Berkin’e ağlamayanlardan değiliz. Çifte standarta karşıyız.”

“Turkey protested and we got stuck with the bill. This was a mass action. Çarşı is a group with a conscious. Really, we didn’t do much. When society was on “mute” we were on “vibrate”. Because we sent scarves to freezing children, because we were on the side of right in the face of wrong, because we said don’t touch the trees we have for years been seen as a delicate problem. What we said made the system uncomfortable. In no democratic country can protesters be tried for attempting a coup. They’re doing it on purpose. We are not among those who cried for Esma and not for Berkin. We’re against double standards.”

The gravity of the situation lies in a strange confluence of football fans, morality, and a very delicate time in world politics. These football fans—Ultras—are talking about standing up for the righteous, the voiceless, the oppressed, in the face of persecution and oppression. Think of anyone you’d like. Martin Luther King comes to my mind due to recent events in the United States but that is a topic for a different time.

Here the name “Esma” is invoked. It is the Turkish name for Asmaa el Beltagi, who became a symbol of the Egyptian revolution when she was shot and killed in Rabia Square by snipers. Out of her death the “Rabia” symbol was born, one that Turkey’s newly-elected president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (and more than a few footballers) has not shied away from flashing. The other name, “Berkin”, refers to Berkin Elvan, a fifteen year old boy shot by police in Istanbul while on his way to buy bread who I wrote about previously.

In this globalized world protests are occurring in more and more spots all over the world, tying us all together—wherever we live—in a web characterized by a battle between right and wrong, the oppressed against the oppressors, the strong against the weak. Yet depending on one’s politics—as Çarşı’s members imply in the above quote—some people choose who to cry for.

We can only hope that cooler heads prevail and that these life sentences are not upheld, since life in prison—not to mention death—as a result of one’s beliefs is truly a sad fate. Football fan or not that is something I hope we can all sympathize with, whether we are Turkish, Egyptian, American or anything else.

 

 

 

 

Author’s Note: All translations are my own. Some of the lengthier ones have been paraphrased, while others are more literal. I apologize in advance for any issues in comprehension arising from my translations, and I have attached links to the original Turkish news stories in all cases. Thank you for your understanding.

Greek and Turkish Brotherhood in the Stands: Berkin Elvan and Alexandros Grigoropoulos Side by Side, Remembered by AEK Athens Fans

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Football can sometimes warm even the most calloused hearts—this story from Sunday March 16 is no exception. The picture below (courtesy of Ultra Style’s Facebook page) is worth a thousand words and more:

AEL-Triglia Rafina, Greek 3rd Division, 16032014

During a Greek third division match between AEK Athens and Triglia Rafina, AEK’s Ultras—Gate 21—hung a banner commemorating 15 year old Berkin Elvan of Turkey, a boy whose death on March 11th (which resulted from being hit by a tear gas canister in protests last summer: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/11/turkey-protests_n_4942943.html) sparked a new wave of protests across Turkey. AEK’s black and white banner put two faces together: Berkin’s face is alongside Alexandros Grigoropoulos’—another fifteen year old—who was fatally shot by Greek police in 2008 during riots in Athens.

Despite the macabre nature of the banner it is a unique look at football’s ability to bridge historical and political divides that the politicians have yet to succeed in doing. That the two fifteen year old boys lost their lives in conflicts that they were only spectators to is the sad result of modern governments that are perceived—by those living under them—to have failed to uphold the social contract. When governments act with impunity no one wins. These two preventable deaths attest to it in the darkest way.

AEK Athens are mired in the third division—the amateur ranks—after self relegating themselves to escape debt, an economic crisis on the small scale that mirrors the larger economic picture in Greece. Their crest is the double-headed eagle, the symbol of Byzantium. The “K” in AEK stands for “Konstantinoupolis”; the team was founded by Greek refugees who fled Istanbul during and after the Turkish war of independence (for a similar story please see my writing on PAOK Thessaloniki). Triglia Rafina share AEK’s black and yellow colors—the colors of the Byzantine flag. When taking the history of both AEK Athens and Triglia Rafina in question it is not shocking that a Turk, Berkin Elvan, should be remembered at an obscure third division football match in Greece. It may not be shocking, but it is certainly commendable.

Animosity between Turks and Greeks is long standing, stemming from years of Ottoman occupation and culminating in a brutal population exchange after the formation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. For years Greeks and Turks lived together under the Ottoman flag until the divisive ideologies of nationalism shattered the Balkans at the beginning of the 20th century—indeed, Greek and Turkish cultures are almost indistinguishable (the foods, the coffee, the yoghurts). I myself have written before on the similarities and differences between Greece and Turkey; having grown up seven kilometers from Greece on Turkey’s Aegean coast I know how similar—yet different—these two cultures truly are.

Where the fortunes of both countries began to diverge was during the mid part of the 20th century. While both Greece and Turkey were taken under the West’s security blanket—via NATO—as a bulwark against Soviet expansion in Eastern Europe, Greece (due to the perception of its being the birthplace of Western democracy) became a darling of the West. They were allowed to join the European Community (EC), the precursor to the European Union, in 1981 despite having a mainly agrarian economy. This ushered in unprecedented years of economic growth as European Community funds supported the development of industry and infrastructure throughout the country. In 2001 it culminated in the adoption of the Euro, a disastrous decision that takes us up to where we are today.

Turkey, on the other hand, was continually given small concessions and valued partnerships with both the EC and EU but was never given a truly viable path to membership. Indeed the divided island of Cyprus is one major roadblock—and a thorn in the side of Greco-Turkish relations since the 1960s. It is notable that it was current events that led to Greece’s abandoning their veto on Turkish membership into the EU following two destructive earthquakes that rocked both countries in 1999. It was similarities—this time the fact that both countries share similar geographies—that brought the two back together.

In 2014 it is different earth-shattering events in both countries that are bringing people together, and the AEK ultras are proof of this. It is no longer Greeks and Turks that are divided as nationalities, but Greek and Turkish individuals that are uniting in the face of deteriorating economic conditions and the increasingly reckless hubris of their politicians. Respect to Gate 21 for abandoning the old animosities between Greeks and Turks—if only for 90 minutes—and for bringing to the fore the similarities between these two nations that go beyond their cultures, addressing the real concerns of twenty-first century people on the streets regardless of where they were born or where they live, what passports they hold or what languages they speak.

As protests rage on in Turkey and instability rules in Ukraine it is times like these—more than ever—that humanity needs to unite in the face of chaos and governmental oppression. I commend the football fans for making their voices heard. Fenerbahce fans quoted eminent Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/football-fans-from-turkey-greece-italy-remember-berkin-elvan-.aspx?pageID=517&nID=63703&NewsCatID=362) over the weekend: “Let no children die, let them play”. It is a sentiment I think we can all agree on, no matter what our politics are or which football team we support.