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All Eyes Are on the Turkish Football Federation For Possible Insight into Turkey’s Kurdish Policy

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Batman Petrolspor, a third division football team from Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, have been referred to the Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) Disciplinary committee for…releasing white doves into the air before their season opening match. The gesture was meant as a way to symbolize peace in the wake of increasing violence all over Turkey, but the TFF was unimpressed; the team faces a fine because they had not gotten permission beforehand. Professor James Dorsey recognizes that this may amount to implicit support by the TFF for Turkey’s re-started war on Kurds—designed to appeal to hard-core nationalists—in the run up to the snap parliamentary elections scheduled for November 1.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/29908613.asp

 

It is important to note that, in the past, the TFF has been known to pick and choose which political gestures in football it disciplines. They backed down in the past in the face of public reaction; one can only hope that they will do the same in this case. Back in December of 2013 two political “statements” from the football field were set to receive punishment from the TFF before it backed down. In the first instance Fethiyespor, a football club from a district of Turkey’s Muğla province on the Aegean coast (itself a stronghold of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) that has voted overwhelmingly against the ruling AKP in all four of the last elections), lined up before a Turkish Cup match against Fenerbahçe with t-shirts that spelled out “Yüce Atatürk”—“Glorious or Honorable Atatürk”. Initially the TFF singled Fethiyespor out for disciplinary action on the grounds of “using national symbols as a means to create an argument. Six days later cooler heads prevailed and Fethiyespor escaped without a penalty; perhaps the words of Sports Minister Suat Kılıç held some sway in the decision: “I can say clearly: Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is the founder of the Turkish Republic, a huge and common value for the Turkish society. His name cannot be described as a political message or something that can alienate people of each other”. It should be noted that the team repeated the action on 29 October 2014—the Turkish national holiday Republic Day, commemorating the founding of the Turkish Republic—in a Turkish Cup match against Keçiörengücü when they lined up with t-shirts bearing Atatürk’s picture; there was no disciplinary action threatened or taken.

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2013. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/25325999.asp

 

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One Year Later. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/futbol/135495/Gelenek_suruyor…_Fethiyespor_yine_Ataturk_tisortuyle_cikti.html

 

In the other instance on December 6, 2013, two of Galatasaray’s international stars Didier Drogba and Emmanuel Eboue wore shirts honoring Nelson Mandela under their jerseys following the club’s first match after the influential South African leader’s death. Both players were set to be disciplined by the TFF for “bringing politics into football”. Again Sports Minister Suat Kılıç warned against “divisive decisions” and the disciplinary actions were dropped on 17 December 2013.

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Drogba (Above) and Eboue (Below). Images Courtesy Of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2520210/Galatasaray-stars-Didier-Drogba-Emmanuel-Eboue-facing-fines-Turkish-FA-displaying-Nelson-Mandela-tributes-vests.html

 

Both of these actions reminded many Turkish football commentators of the TFF’s flippant manner when it comes to taking disciplinary action. In August of 2013 the “Rabia sign”, popularized by the Muslim Brotherhood in the wake of the Military coup against Mohamed Morsi in Egypt, were made by Turkish footballers Emre Belözoğlu—himself known for his religiosity—and Sercan Kaya after scoring goals in the Turkish Premier League. Turkey’s then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made the same sign at a speech in Bursa the day after Mr. Belozoglu made it on the pitch while playing for Fenerbahçe when he compared Turkey to Egypt: “The games being played today in Egypt will be played tomorrow in another Islamic country…maybe they will agitate another country, may they will want to agitate Turkey because they don’t want a strong Turkey in the region”. Neither of these players had any disciplinary action taken against them for making what many view as an overtly political sign on the football field, perhaps that is because it was the “right” kind of political sign.

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Emre Belozoglu (Left). Image Courtesy of: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2520210/Galatasaray-stars-Didier-Drogba-Emmanuel-Eboue-facing-fines-Turkish-FA-displaying-Nelson-Mandela-tributes-vests.html

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (Right). Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/24538663.asp

 

Returning to the case of Batman Petrolspor we can hope that the TFF follows the precedents set in the cases of Fethiyespor, Didier Drogba, and Emmanuel Eboue. But don’t be surprised if the disciplinary actions are upheld by the TFF since—in this context, at least—the desire for peace may well be the “wrong” kind of political gesture at this juncture in Turkey, and the powers at be may not see it as innocuous as the cases of December 2013 were deemed to be. The TFF’s decision in the coming days will speak volumes about which path Turkey is headed on regarding the Kurdish issue.

Stampede at Cairo Football Match: What Was It and What Does It Mean?

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On Sunday February 8 2014 anywhere between 19 and 28 people were killed in a stampede outside of Cairo’s Air Defense Stadium. This grisly stadium disaster occurred almost three years to the day of another riot in Port Said Stadium on February 1 2012 that killed 72. On that day it was a match between Al Masry and Al Ahly, on Sunday it was Al Ahly’s rivals Zamalek against ENPPI. After the 2012 events the Egyptian Premier League was suspended and no fans were allowed into matches until December of last year. Since then limited numbers of fans have been allowed into matches and just 5,000 tickets where made available in the 30,000 capacity Air Defense Stadium–the Interior Ministry had planned on allowing just 10,000 into the stadium. For me, this raises the obvious question: If some fans can be let in, then why not all? Either allow no fans in…or allow all the fans in. This odd discrepancy signals to me that some members of the state security forces where expecting this.

For now, let us look at the facts. Security officials said that Zamalek fans attempting to enter the stadium without tickets sparked the clashes. As someone who has witnessed first hand small scale crushes at stadium entrances due to ticketless fans this is certainly plausible. The Zamalek fan group “Ultras White Knights” (UWK) announced on their Facebook page that only one small barbed-wire door (about 3.7 meters or 12 feet wide) was opened for them which sparked pushing, leading to the police firing tear gas at the crowds. As someone who has seen first hand the ways that police sometimes orchestrate chaos, this explanation is, also, not out of the question. Following the deaths the Egyptian football League has been suspended indefinitely as the blame game starts.

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Images Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31252429

“Because of the stampede, some choked and died from asphyxiation, while the rest died from being trampled,” a police official told the state-run newspaper, al-Ahram, according to the BBC. The Ultras White Knights say that birdshot and tear gas were fired, contradicting the emergency services’ statement, but such reports were corroborated by eye-witnesses. The President of the Zamalek club Mortada Mansour “said in an interview with a private TV station that police had not opened fire on the club’s fans, and that the violence was ‘orchestrated’ to undermine the upcoming parliamentary elections.” According to the BBC, Mansour is a supporter of President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi who overthrew former President Mohammed Morsi in 2013.

The Ultras White Knights and even a Muslim Brotherhood activist who took to Twitter are claiming that the violence was set up, “a planned massacre, premeditated murder and a conspiracy plotted by mean people” according to the UWK Facebook page. Just a groups from opposite ends of the political spectrum came together to express such views, so too did political figures. Leader of the liberal Al-Ghad Party Ayman Nur predicted that no one will be held responsible while the leader of the Islamic Group’s Building and Development Party, Tariq al-Zumur, tweeted that “the massacre” of Zamalek fans “is new evidence for how the gang [in reference to the authorities] allows the shedding of Egyptian blood”. Meanwhile state media outlets such as newspapers Al-Ahram al-Masa’i and Al-Jumhuriyah blamed the ultras for “rioting” and trying to enter the stadium without tickets. The executive editor of Eygpt’s state run Mena news agency went as far as saying that the security forces were “completely innocent”.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31299125

 

 

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-31252429

On Tuesday February 10 it was announced that the families of those who died would be compensated 25,000 Egyptian Pounds (3,280 USD). It was an interesting announcement since the death total is still not confirmed. A Health Ministry spokesman put the number at 19 while the Public Prosecutor’s office put the number at 22. UWK say they have “28 Martyrs”. While the exact numbers are not clear what is clear is that this should never have happened. For me, the fact that only some fans where let in—after the full ban was lifted—in leads me to believe that the state wanted some sort of confrontation in order to justify the harsh measures taken against football fans. We saw it in Turkey, after 2013’s Besiktas-Galatsaray derby, where members of the Besiktas Ultra group Çarşı were effectively framed following an ugly pitch invasion. In any case, it is important to note that this isn’t just your standard “soccer riot”, as US news outlet ESPN reported and that, unfortunately, some of the American readership believed; one even chose to ask why average Americans should like soccer?

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If one wants a standard “soccer riot” they need look no further than the scenes at the Africa Cup of Nations Semi Final match between Ghana and Equatorial Guinea. The host country’s fans started throwing foreign objects at their Ghanaian counterparts out of frustration at losing 3-0. Of course, there was some politics involved in that as well—after their quarterfinal exit at the hands of the hosts Tunisian officials accused the referee of bias, but, in my mind, this was still just disgruntled fans unable to stomach defeat on home soil.

Of course it is not all doom and gloom in Middle Eastern and North African football. It is worth noting that the January 23 Asian Cup match between bitter geopolitical rivals Iran and Iraq went off without a hitch, with Iraq winning on penalties 7-6 in a thriller that will certainly go down in history for all of the right reasons. Much is to be said for such a high profile match ending without issue—just recall the chaotic scenes from the Serbia-Albania European Championship qualifier from last October.

For more on Egyptian football and its political implications please see Professor James Dorsey’s blog here.

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?”

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(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.

Something to Give: Tahrir, Thanksgiving 2012

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I was standing on the edge of a crowd of thousands. The wounded were being tended to in a field hospital, across the street from the hard core who were sleeping—or had been sleeping—inside the door-frame of a building for who knows how long.  I could see large banners scrawled with foreign scribbles. I tried to not look too out of place but I failed, miserably this time, which was surprising since it was the first time I had been outed since I had gotten to the city. It was clear that this was Tahrir Square in the midst of some sort of revolution, whatever such romantic notions may mean.

“Want to see some stuff?” He asked me.

I didn’t really want to. I had approached the square from behind the main buildings, in a bid to be inconspicuous. I had seen the Egyptian Museum, and I had gotten my Al Ahly shirt successfully. But this was pure chaos. I needed a friend, no matter who it was. I consented, with conditions.

“Like . . . ?” I asked, letting my simple question hang in the air like the cigarette smoke that swirled around a few of the protesting groups.

“The wounded? Those hurt? My brother died here—shot by a sniper in the revolution. Look—here he is,” he said, pulling a picture out of his wallet. I didn’t understand it. It was a glossy picture of a man, red letters in Arabic. Nothing else that a laymen could understand. Other than, of course, the fact that people in Tahrir Square are looking to sell a story to any western-looking person they saw. To them, a Western face meant a way to sell a story—their side of the multi-faceted battle raging for Egypt’s soul. I didn’t believe him.

“I’m not here for the news—I’d rather just smoke a hookah. Know any good places?” I asked, honestly. I wasn’t in Cairo to become embroiled in the politics. I was there for the pyramids, the feel of the off-season.

“Sure, lets go.” He said simply. I stupidly followed him as he walked in and out of cafes. This one has too many old men. This one has no seats. This one doesn’t have any either, lets cross the street. I followed him, less intent on the hookah at this point than to see where this guy’s idea of who I was would take us. He wanted to be comfortable. We crossed by the make shift field hospital. Bloody rags and people who might not wake up.

“What role did the ultras have in all of . . . all of this?” I asked as I followed him through the crowds, referring to the fans of Cairo’s main soccer team, Al Ahly, who were played a big part in the revolution. He didn’t have a good answer for me, and I forgave him. Perhaps his answers had been scripted in his own mind.

“Here, sit down—I’ll grab a seat,” he said, seating me by the door of a packed café a few blocks from the chaotic square. I sat and looked dumbly at the thronged café. He said something in Arabic to the proprietor who, as seems to be the case in Egypt, was dressed like a customer. The apple hookah came before he could grab a seat.  I gladly took some hits, letting the smoke batter my lungs before sending it out into the Cairene air. It was bliss, or as close to bliss as a Westerner can get in Cairo.  I watched the smoke fall into nothing.

“Mind if I smoke a cigarette?” he said as he pulled up his chair. I motioned for him to “go for it”. He lit up.

“These are so expensive here . . .” he muttered. Then he got into his script. “Where are you from?”

“Turkey,” I said, as sure as I could.

“Turkey . . . I had a girlfriend from there.  Marmaris . . . You know, I wish Egypt could be like Turkey. None of . . . this. Democracy and Islam. Together.”
I looked at him. I knew Turkey. It wasn’t easy. But maybe it was easier than Cairo.

He didn’t need my words, ineffectual as they were.

“Look—I pray on Fridays. But then, I like to have a beer. I like that. They want to take that away, all of them”. They were the bearded ones in the square, the ones my driver to the pyramids had cursed. “Bad People,” he had called them spitting the words out.

“Look at these girls, their heads uncovered. This will all go away,” he warned me, as part of what I assumed to be part of his prescribed speech. I looked around. There were uncovered girls. He knew that I knew.

“Look at her. She wants to fuck you.” He said, regarding a western looking Egyptian girl sitting near us.

“Yeah?” I laughed out the words along with the smoke.

“Yeah. She knows you’re western. Money. And you wont try to own her. Most of the people here are journalists.” I doubted it, but I played along. He wanted me to feel comfortable, and changed the subject accordingly. The hookah was comforting enough. I wasn’t a journalist looking for my sexual fill. But it would have been nice. I glanced at the girl. She definitely did have nice eyes. Dark like Swiss chocolate. Dark like Nubia.

“She has a boyfriend.” I said. I said it to see what he would say.

“No. He’s a friend.”

“Yeah?”

“Yes. I can tell by the way she’s talking to him.” They were staring into a video camera together. The sites and sounds of the fighting that took place before I had gotten there.  They looked like friends, but I let it go. He droned on about his past, trying to sound credible. Studied in Holland. I guessed it meant “I have money, trust me.” I dodged political questions, or anything that might make it seem like I was fishing for a story I’d write two hours later in a cramped, lonely, strange hotel room. My evasiveness made him know he was down. But not out. No one is ever out in Cairo. The people had become operators since the revolution. Or maybe before hand—hadn’t Mubarak played with America’s fear of Islamic terrorism to mass a hefty personal fortune out of aid money?

“How long did you say it was since you got here?”

“Two days.”

“When?”

“The night before last?” I ventured, trying to be vague.

“So . . . “ He said it as if he was counting in his head. “Less than forty-eight hours ago, right?”

“I guess.” I shrugged, taking another pull on the hookah.

“Do you have your passport?”

It was a dumb question. A foreigner in a foreign land, without a passport? It would be like a dog without a flea collar. I couldn’t lie. The jig was up. I cursed myself in my mind. He could tell and I didn’t even need to answer. No, no one was ever “out” in Cairo.

“Could you get me some cigarettes at duty free?” A simple question.

“I mean . . .” He cut me off as I trailed off.

“You can get them once at the airport, and once again within 48 hours of arrival,” he explained calmly.

I had no choice but to consent. It didn’t matter, in the long run. I’ve been helped by random people in random countries to find soccer shirts. Some might say I’ve led a life relying on stranger’s help in stranger countries. So he would get a couple cartons of American Spirits. It’s all good. He gave me the 200 Egyptian pounds, two crisp notes. He was a self-professed operator. He took the smokes off a white shelf in a well-lit government shop. It felt like a hospital. Some Arabic got written in my passport, I can’t say I wasn’t scared. He might have been an instigator in the protests that the government was after. He might have been a petty tout looking to exploit unwitting tourists. But I needed to do it. Traveler’s karma, if you will.

Walking outside, he with his cigarettes and me with a dark uneasy feeling in my stomach, I made it a point to part at the first intersection.

“I’m meeting a German girl and her friend tomorrow night at a belly-dancing show. You should come. It will make it easier for me to fuck her if you can take care of her friend,” he said off hand. An operator indeed.

I didn’t go. Instead of feeling up a young German in a strange city far, far, away from home, the next night I found myself running from tear gas and dodging men wielding wooden sticks in the tumult of yet another one of the spontaneous street protests that defined a Cairo in transition. But I did have a fresh white Adidas Zamalek shirt. And I also had the knowledge that, as a traveler, people will want something from you, even if you think you have nothing left to give.  You always have something, and that is completely fair. You may only be able to give words, a perspective, a pair of ears, or—even—cigarettes. But it is certainly something.

Zamalek Shirt 2012

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This is the shirt of Al Ahly‘s Cairo rivals, Zamalek, made by Adidas. I almost managed to get locked inside the Adidas store on one of Cairo’s main thoroughfares, Talaat Harb, after a spontaneous protest broke out and the shopkeepers started lowering metal doors to protect the glass of storefronts. I was able to get out of the store and back to my hotel with the shirt before the situation got out of hand.

 

Zamalek

 

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Al Ahly Home Shirt 2012

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An Al Ahly Home shirt, made by Adidas, purchased at the Al Ahly club store at the Mokhtar El Tetsh Stadium in Cairo. Since the ultras–hard core supporters–of the Al Ahly football club played a major part in the revolution against Hosni Mubarek, and have maintained their presence on Tahrir Square throughout the protests, this shirt has extra special meaning.

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