Martin Luther King Day 2018: A Marginal Sociologist’s Take on How the Controversy Regarding “Shithole Countries” Reveals the Hypocrisy of the Modern World


During a meeting with U.S. lawmakers regarding immigration policy, U.S. President Donald Trump’s allegedly asked a question: “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?”. According to the Washington Post, these comments were made by the President of the United States, despite the fact that no concrete sources were mentioned; the Post’s story mentions only “several people briefed on the meeting” and “people familiar with the meeting”. On the other hand, some U.S. lawmakers have come out to deny that Mr. Trump used such colorful language. Given that the Washington Post was unable to provide sources, it is still unclear whether or not these comments were actually made. For the purposes of this post, however, it does not matter whether or not said comments were actually made.

This is because there are a few things beyond argument regarding this incident:


  1. Trump’s comments were, clearly, less than ideal;
  2. This kind of event should have sparked real debate, in the vein of Sociologist Jurgen Habermas’ communicative action


Sadly, despite the fact that everyone could agree on number one above, it seems that no one could agree on number two. Instead of actually talking, there was only outrage, as evidenced by the sports(!) site ESPN’s focus on responses from the NBA (National Basketball Association) community (http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22062684/raptors-president-masai-ujiri-criticizes-president-donald-trump-reported-remark and http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22100611/adam-silver-donald-trump-controversy-discouraging ). Normally, one would expect that when a sports website focuses on politics that some sort of nationwide debate would be forthcoming; unfortunately, that was not the case at all. Instead it was the same old self-righteousness that most Americans should, by now, be used to.

Some readers may ask why this is a problem. Why should there be debate, some might ask, when Mr. Trump’s comments were so offensive? Sociologically, it seems to me as if the “offense” that so many have taken to Mr. Trump’s comments stems from the inner demons of many Americans. Perhaps, this is because many Americans might actually harbor the kind of condescending—and ultimately negative—view of other countries that Mr. Trump’s comments espoused (perhaps because they don’t travel?). It is possible that the president’s comments reflect the inner thoughts of many Americans, and to come face to face with this reality is simply too much for a great number of people.

Anyone who has traveled beyond their home knows that, inevitably, something goes wrong. It could be a missed train, a fully booked hotel, a closed restaurant, the inability to find Wi-Fi, or even something as banal as a convenience store that has run out of unsweetened iced tea. In a moment of exasperation, I am sure that most people have exclaimed “this place (town/county/neighborhood/or even country) is a shithole!”. To deny this would, in my opinion, not be realistic.

At the same time, I know for a fact that many people—who claim to be “liberal” and “tolerant” in their outlook—make the same value judgements about other countries (and cultures) as they allege Mr. Trump made. Of course, these people tend to not be as “eloquent” as Mr. Trump was in stating their opinion; instead they err on the side of political correctness. In college, a former girlfriend of mine—who was from a non-Western country—once told me how an ostensibly “tolerant” resident of our college town once told her (upon learning of where she was from) “oh, I heard it’s really bad over there”. During the 2013 Gezi Park Protests in Turkey, a neighbor of mine in the United States used the exact same terminology: “Oh, you’re going to Turkey? I heard it’s really bad over there”. Now, let me translate these statements for a moment from “politically correct” language to “real” language:


“I heard it’s really bad over there” = “I heard that place is a shithole”


While the latter may be more vulgar, and seem more disrespectful at first, it is clear that the former is no less condescending, no less insulting, and certainly no less disrespectful. And this is something that we, living in Western cultures, should be aware of when we discuss international affairs.

Importantly, this condescension manifests itself in other facets of the Western liberal mind as well. Take, for instance, the debate on illegal immigration in the United States (or the refugee crisis in Western Europe, since it is an analogous process). The globalist push to encourage immigration to the west is driven by the same sentiments of condescension and superiority. So many times, I have heard my fellow sociologists claim that illegal immigration should not be discouraged because “those people are trying to better their lives” and “escape from poverty”. Beside the fact that Mexico is far from the only “poor” country in the world (in fact, it is not even that poor, as Mexico is ranked 16th in GDP, just below Australia—where is the outcry for increased immigration from Guinea-Bissau, which clocks in at 181st?), the idea that lives will be “improved” by illegal immigration to the United States smacks of Western concepts of superiority.


Here, the logic goes:


  1. Your country is poorer than ours;
  2. Coming to our country—which is not poor—will improve your life;
  3. Welcome!


Of course, this logic could easily be translated as:


  1. Your country is a shithole;
  2. Coming to our country—which is not a shithole—will improve your life;
  3. Welcome!


And thus the Western individual’s sense of virtue and self-righteousness has been confirmed, another “third-worlder” has been rescued from the poverty, filth, and violence of the third world. Of course, it is never considered that—perhaps—the “third world” country that the immigrant hailed from had many positive qualities that the United States lacks: like a sense of community, a sense of family values, and a general lifestyle not dominated by the mechanistic and bureaucratic logic of extreme capitalism. These latter points are rarely considered because the Western countries tend to benefit from the cheap labor offered by immigrant populations. The economy of the United States is satiated by cheap labor from Mexico while the sense of national virtue and self-righteousness in Sweden is satiated by an influx of Syrian refugees; yet in both cases the underlying assumption is “our country is better for you than that shithole you came from”. Is it degrading? Of course it is. Is it insulting? Of course it is. And is it really that different than the comments Mr. Trump allegedly made? To me, I don’t see how it is, and there in lies the hypocrisy of modern liberalism in the West.

Since some of Mr. Trump’s comments were directed at Haiti—and even prompted CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, who choked up at times, to become emotional when discussing the topic—I will provide an experience I had with a former student who was from Haiti. My student was indeed a strong individual (as Mr. Cooper describes Haitians to be), but more importantly he was a strong thinker. He taught me things that I did not know about his country: this is one of the joys of teaching; often the teacher learns from the students. My student taught me that Haiti’s troubles were many, but they could be traced back to two sources: Politicians and Imperialism. This student told me that Haiti’s politicians were notoriously corrupt; they tended to take from their population much more than they gave. And he also told me that when the United States started providing rice to Haiti, it meant that the local agriculture business was destroyed; the island nation started to depend on the United States for rice and, rather than develop their own domestic agriculture, they began to rely on international sources. An excerpt from Thomas M. Kostigen’s The Big Handout, available on Google Books,  explains this situation well. Here it becomes abundantly clear—at least to me—that Haiti’s problems do not stem from it being a “shithole country” at all. But at the same time, their salvation is not to be found in more “international aid”. Rather Haiti—like all countries, including the United States—would be well served to embrace their own nationalism, their own country, to bring about a better future.

The hypocrisy of the outrage about Mr. Trump’s comments was brought home to me most recently on 15 January 2018 when a shooting took place at the Providence Place Mall in my hometown; that night my brother was at the mall. He was quick to point out the irony: Many people at his school had warned him about visiting me in Turkey over his Christmas vacation, they had told him that Turkey was “dangerous”. In short, they had warned him that Turkey was a “shithole country”, even if they didn’t use such politically incorrect language. Yet, he did not find guns blazing in Turkey—he found them in the United States, in his home town specifically, while out shopping for Matchboxes. Indeed, the idea that—somehow—other countries are much more “dangerous” than the United States is flawed. But don’t ask the politically correct to tell that to you, since they will only respond with politically incorrect formulations of their own thoughts and crocodile tears (Please see Anderson Cooper, above). Or—even worse—they will paint over the truth: that the globalist system desires to make all countries “shithole countries”.

Take the progressive mayor of Providence, RI, Jorge Elorza, who said the suspect was just “a knucklehead”. His further elaboration did not actually elaborate at all: “It was a terrible incident. Kids … rival groups, rival factions started beef at the mall and it resulted in someone pulling a gun out and shooting someone. It’s senseless, just dumb stuff”. That the Mayor, an elected official(!), of an American city could not come out and say what the police themselves could say—that they “wouldn’t rule out” gang involvement—is a testament to just how dangerous political correctness is for the city, for society, and for the nation. Senseless violence is not inflicted by “factions” or “groups”, senseless violence is inflicted by gangs.

But, sadly, this is the state of the United States in 2018. This is a country where people who imply that other countries are “shitholes” in a politically correct manner feign offense when the same sentiment is uttered in a politically incorrect manner without realizing that they do the same exact thing. This is a country where—in “honor” of Martin Luther King Day—the New Yorker magazine puts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., kneeling, next to Colin Kaepernick on their magazine’s cover. I put “honor” in quotations because the fact that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. should be depicted as kneeling besides someone like Colin Kaepernick (whose divisive actions I have written about before) is a disgrace to the legacy of an American hero; in fact it diminishes his legacy.



A Questionable Cover Image For The New Yorker. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.seattletimes.com/sports/seahawks/seahawks-michael-bennett-appears-on-the-new-yorker-cover-next-to-colin-kaepernick-and-martin-luther-king-jr/



Perhaps this Would Have Been a Better Cover Image For The New Yorker? Image Courtesy Of: http://guides.ll.georgetown.edu/c.php?g=592919&p=4172699


But this is also a country where such division—for reasons I cannot fathom—is welcomed. It is a country where someone like Eduardo Bonilla-Silva is the head of the American Sociological Association (ASA). As a marginal sociologist, it is an insult to me that someone as seemingly racist as Mr. Bonilla-Silva represents my profession. This is man who has written a book arguing that, basically, all whites are racists, and has given a talk entitled “the real ‘race problem’ in sociology: the power of white rule in our discipline”; as a sociologist—as marginal as I may be—I take offense to this. In reading one of Mr. Bonilla-Silva’s book chapters for a graduate seminar, I was taken aback reading some of his generalizations punctuated by blatant racism; it was clear to me that he certainly was not judging people by the content of their character but by the color of their skin–something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. urged us not to do. But this is because Mr. Bonilla-Silva—like Colin Kaepernick—is unlike Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The latter was a hero who wanted to bring people together, the former two are cowards who only want to drive people apart. Just like it takes strength to be positive in the negative world we live in, it takes a strong person to unite people—the weak will only resort to division. By the same token, most of us know that it is easier to break a friendship off than work to make a friendship grow.

This is because people have no respect—nor idea—of their own community, their own nation. We cannot abandon our countries to the mercy of globalist leaders and corporate interests, both of which have no respect for their countries. We owe it to ourselves as citizens of whichever country we belong to to make our countries as good as they can be; we must strive to make our countries live up to the messages that they send us regarding “freedom”, “democracy”, and “liberty”. I saw the football fans stand up for their country in a small stadium in Istanbul, as the fans of Sariyer supported their nation with a Turkish flag, a banner reading “Long Live Mustafa Kemal Pasha” (Yasa Mustafa Kemal Pasa), and a banner reading “Country First” (Once Vatan). For me it was an inspiration. And I see the same sentiments it in a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. himself: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools”. It is words like these that inspire me, not the negative rhetoric of division that the globalist media tends to proffer.



On an October Day the Sariyer Players Stood For Their National Anthem While The Fans Made Their Sentiments Clear Through Banners. Images Courtesy of the Author.



A Sensible Sentiment Sociologists Would Do Well To Keep In Mind. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.quotesbycelebrities.com/martin-luther-king-jr.-quotes/we-must-learn-live-together-brothers-or For Audio of Mr. King’s Speech, Please See This YouTube Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNPpEQkep2k

Germanwings Flight 4U 9525 and the Football World: You Are Not Alone


The world has been shaken in recent days by the tragic news of Germanwings flight 4U 9525 which crashed into the French Alps on Tuesday March 24 en route from Barcelona to Dusseldorf. For now, much of the news has focused on co-pilot Andreas Lubitz in order to find the answer to an uncomfortable question: What could make a seemingly normal man calmly take 150 people to their deaths?

Currently investigators are looking through the co-pilot’s personal belongings by combing his parent’s home in Montabaur, Rhineland Palatinate, in order to uncover a motive. But, of course, in this digital age personal belongings are not the only things the departed leave behind. The Guardian explains:


“A recently deleted Facebook page bearing Lubitz’s name showed him as a smiling man in a brown jacket posing in front of the Golden Gate bridge in California.

The page offered few clues as to why the 28-year-old might have deliberately crashed the plane. It suggested he was an unremarkable young man – interested in flying and gadgets, as befits a pilot, as well as electronic music, discos and tenpin bowling.

His likes included Lufthansa and LFT Bremen, one of five Lufthansa facilities around the world offering pilot training. It also linked to the Airbus A320 technical site and to Beechcraft Bonanza, a page dedicated to an American six-seater light aircraft. There is a mention of Alexander Gerst, the German astronaut who last year blasted off to the International Space Station.

Much of Lubitz’s social life appears to have taken place in the nearby city of Koblenz. There are links to a climbing wall, Kletterwald Sayn, located in a forest, a local bowling alley, Pinup, and one of Koblenz’s nightclub’s, the Agostea Nachtarena. And to a branch of Burger King. His favourite music acts appear to have been Paul Kalkbrenner, a German electronic producer, and David Guetta, a French DJ turned record producer. He also liked Bose speakers.”


So here are nine or ten Facebook “likes” that are provided for the living to judge the dead by. While I obviously have no idea what Mr. Lubitz’s motivations were—or what his psychological state in recent weeks has been—there is something disconcerting with judging life by Facebook pages. I suppose God is no longer the only judge in the age of social media. Lives are presented for all to see with all (or, in many cases, none) of their grandeur—human interests reduced to off-hand clicks of a website’s “like” button. Since I am no God my focus in this chilling tragedy is the game that links so many of us together in this all-too-large world: Football. Mr. Lubitz, seemingly, was no football fan. But the tragedy had two very opposite effects on the football world, showing how our human lives are, many times, governed by what can only be termed “luck”.

Two Iranian citizens, Milad Hojjatoleslami and Hossein Javadi, died on flight 4U 9525 after covering Sunday’s El Clasico between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Milad Hojatoleslami, Hossein Javadi

Mr. Javani (center right) and Mr. Hojjatoleslami (Center left) covered last summer’s World Cup. Image Courtesy Of: http://news.yahoo.com/photos/picture-taken-june-26-2014-iranian-journalists-hossein-photo-181214718.html

They were on their way to Vienna, where Iran faced Chile in an international friendly on Thursday, March 26. Mr. Hojjatoleslami was working for Tasnim news agency while Mr. Javadi was a sports journalist with Vatan-e-Emrooz newspaper. Iranian president Hassan Rouhani offered his condolences in a tweet, while Mr. Javadi will be remembered by the “haunting” photo he took before take off. Unfortunately these men died following the sport they loved—and any football fan used to traveling on low cost flights in order to affordably attend matches can empathize with these two men. Sadly, their jobs meant they had no other choice—they volunteered to cover the events with their own money since the Iranian media companies they worked for didn’t support them financially. May they rest in peace—mekanları cennet olsun.

Two of their colleagues, Payam Younesipour and Saeed Zahedian, changed their travel plans and elected to stay in Vienna to focus on Iran’s match against Chile. The decision saved their lives. There were others with similar luck. Third tier Swedish side Dalkurd FF, a side formed ten years ago by Kurdish immigrants, was supposed to be on the plane. Ultimately, they chose to fly in three separate groups due to the long layover flight 4U 9525 had in Dusseldorf between Barcelona and Stockholm. The decision to avoid the layover saved the lives of the players and, arguably, the team, as they avoided the fate of the 1958 Manchester United side and the 1993 Zambian National team.

Other Swedish soccer teams immediately expressed their condolences and relief that Dalkurd FF survived.

On Wednesday, March 25 Germany’s national soccer team remembered the victims of the crash by wearing black armbands during their 2-2 draw with Australia in Kaiserslautern.

Lukas Podolski

Image Courtesy Of: http://www.theguardian.com/football/2015/mar/25/germany-australia-match-report-international-friendly

When tragedies like these strike it is refreshing to see the world come together—whether German, Spanish, Swedish, or Iranian—through sport. It is also a time to reflect that even though all of us are individuals on earth with our own struggles, no matter what we do no human being is alone in life . . . or in death.



In Memory of flight 4U 9525


Image Courtesy Of: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/early-lead/wp/2015/03/24/german-national-soccer-team-to-honor-victims-of-french-alps-plane-crash/

Football Clubs React to Soma Mine Explosion in Turkey


There are times that a nation turns its teary eyes in unison to disasters so horrific that it seems nothing else matters. Today is one of those days in Turkey. At the latest count at least 201 miners have been reported dead in a mine explosion in Soma, a city in Western Turkey’s Manisa province. Energy Minister Taner Yildiz (of cat fame) reported that of the 787 miners who had been inside (2 Kilometers—1.2 Miles—below the surface) at the time of the explosion, just 360 have been accounted for.

Days like this are also ones where sport can help bring people together in the face of tragedy, regardless of nationality. The major Turkish football clubs sent their condolences immediately and the most interesting message came from Liverpool FC in England. Following the Hillsborough disaster the team is no stranger to tragedy, and it is refreshing that the team should reach out to Turkey in a show of empathy. Turkish media reports that Liverpool’s official Facebook account posted this message of solidarity with the miners and their families (http://www.sporx.com/futbol/dunya/ingiltere/liverpool-acimizi-paylasti-SXHBQ385130SXQ and http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/26414735.asp)


Liverpool FC-Turkey’s Twitter account showed a shortened version of the same message.

While it will take some time for things to settle in Turkey and for the blame game between the opposition and the ruling party to subside (since this kind of thing should never happen in a developed country where mining is so prevalent)—it is refreshing to see humanity at its best as reflected through football clubs. No matter where you live or how you live, human life matters.

Below is the amateur football team Soma Spor Kulubu’s website which today displays their badge on a coal black background. My thoughts and prayers go out to the miners and their families on this dark day. Herkese başsağlığı diliyorum.


Courtesy of: http://www.somaspor.com

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


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.

Turkey’s Social Malaise Comes Out On The Pitch In Trabzon

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Sports are often presented as a figurative “war in peacetime”. Sometimes, however, sports can also become a staging ground for wider social malaise—and create war zones itself. That was the case this weekend, as the Trabzonspor-Fenerbahçe derby at the Hüseyin Avni Aker Stadium in Trabzon had to be abandoned at halftime due to crowd violence. It is the second derby to be abandoned in Turkey this year (I attended the first).

On Saturday night—the night before the derby—I had planned to write a post for this blog on an unfortunate event that occurred at an amputee league match. Yes, you read that right. Not only do amputees have a soccer league in Turkey, but they also have incidents at the matches. On March 9th Malatya Bedensel Engellilerspor faced off against Istanbul Özürlülerspor at the Inönü University’s synthetic grass field in Malatya in the Turkish Amputee Football Super League.

According to the news report the guests from Istanbul went up 1-0 in the 12th minute, before Malatya Bedensel Engellilerspor got an equalizer in the 36th minute and then a go-ahead goal in the 40th minute. Three minutes later Gazi Öztop of Malatya Bedensel Engellilerspor was sent off for a second yellow—at that point his team-mate, Mustafa Çolak, was sent off as well for dissent. That is when everything fell apart. Çolak was apparently seen to hit the referee, Sadık Kayhan, with one of his crutches before a pitch-invading fan attacked Mr. Kayhan, followed by the rest of Malatya’s team. Kayhan had to escape to the locker room and called the game off while riot police entered the field with tear gas in a bid to restore order.

For me, this was reminiscent of a similarly disgusting event at a Turkish Wheelchair Basketball Super League match between Beşiktaş and Galatasaray on 10 December 2012. Indeed the headlines on Sporx.com were the same for both events—“Sözün Bittiği Yerdeyiz” (We Are At The Point That Words End). In that incident the match had to be abandoned in the second quarter with Galatasaray up by 5 as debris rained onto the court while Beşiktaş and Galatasaray fans clashed; videos of players crawling from damaged wheelchairs were gut-wrenching. In the aftermath, grainy pictures—taken through clouds of tear gas—showed a basketball court strewn with destroyed wheelchairs in an unthinkable embarrassment for two of Turkey’s biggest sporting clubs.

A friend of mine in Istanbul—a life long Galatasaray fan and season ticket holder for the football matches—was so angry that he was brought to tears by the incident—to think that his fans could do such a thing. Indeed, it was unthinkable. It is unthinkable. Yet, Sunday happened in Malatya. And Monday happened in Trabzon. The signs of social malaise, creeping through all levels of Turkish sport, are undeniable.

Before Monday’s match there were fears of major clashes because of the bad blood between the two teams. Fenerbahçe beat Trabzonspor to the Turkish title on the final day of the 2010-11 season, a championship that led to chairman Aziz Yıldırım landing in jail over a match fixing scandal. Snipers were placed on roof-tops surrounding the stadium, a move by Turkish security forces that—according to one news report—angered fans before the match even started.

In the match, Fenerbahçe’s Emmanuel Emenike put Fenerbahçe up 1-0 in the 23rd minute—seven minutes later rocks rained down on the pitch from Trabzonspor’s fans and the referee had to stop the match for ten minutes. When the unruly displays started again in the last minutes of the first half the referees went to the locker room. The match would not continue.

Trabzonspor fan favorite and Turkish national team star, goalkeeper Onur Kıvrak, went outside the stadium with security escorts to urge the fans to leave. His words, however, may have egged them on even more:

We are the followers of this virtuous jersey. But these [events] don’t befit our virtuous fans. We will fight until the death but now is not the time. Now leave in a way befitting of Trabzonspor. Later, we will fight until death.”

I hesitate to brand Kıvrak as a rabble-rouser—he was bold enough to attempt to do something amid the chaos, and that should be applauded. However, one cannot predict the fans’ reactions to his words—perhaps they could have been chosen more wisely. Indeed, Trabzonspor board members were allegedly furious at Ibrahim Hacıosmanoğlu, himself a controversial figure in Turkish football, about Kıvrak’s move while taking a shot at their own fans (!):

President, who sent Onur amongst the fans? There are [alcohol] drinkers and [marijuana] smokers among them. What if someone had stabbed him?

Hacıosmanoğlu just chose to ask the question back: “Who sent Onur?” I’m not so sure anyone sent him, my personal opinion is that he—a representative of the Turkish national team himself—just felt a personal duty to go where no one dared go and confront the social malaise head on.

Unfortunately, he had no calming effect as police wounded in the riots had to be carried into the stadium to be treated by Fenerbahçe’s team doctors (the team was stranded inside the stadium as chaos ensued outside). In the end an armored vehicle had to be brought in to carry the Fenerbahçe team to the airport—at 12:45 am. This was more than four hours after kick off, and more than three hours after the referee called the match off.

In the fall I attended an amateur league match at Çeşmespor’s stadium, in my hometown. There I had written about the tensions simmering below the surface in Turkish society that, unfortunately, tend to come out at sporting events. Hopefully Turkey’s social malaise—that manifests itself most often in the football stadium—will be dealt with. But the weekend ended with improbable violence at an obscure amputee match in central Anatolia before this week started with more probable—and still unacceptable—crowd violence on the Black Sea coast. It is something to be wary of as local elections in the wake of last June’s protests take place later in March. My friend, the life-long Galatasaray fan, told me “The people of this country are full of hate for each other.” As a Turk I certainly hope the politicians take note in this election season. Otherwise, it will certainly be a rocky road ahead—on and off the field.


NOTE: All translations are my own.


Thanks to Ultras Tifo (http://www.ultras-tifo.net/news/2323-riots-trabzonspor-fenerbahce-10032014.html) for the pictures below, please check the link for more photos from the match.


The violence was real on the pitch:

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And off the pitch: