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Beware Mass Media: The New York Times’s Coverage of Turkish Football and Politics is a Veritable Disaster

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The New York Times Looks to Portray Hakan Sukur as the Aggrieved Victim in His Upscale Cafe. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/03/sports/hakan-sukur.html

 

U.S. President Donald Trump has been much maligned for his criticism of mainstream news outlets like the New York Times; he has indeed repeatedly criticized them for being “fake news” and has described them as “failing”. Of course, as is to be expected, the main (lame)stream media—like CNN—have hit back at Mr. Trump’s criticism with columns like Brian Stelter’s; that this particular column should carry the heading “Reliable Sources” is almost as absurd as the name of the Soviet Union’s main newspaper, Pravda, which was translated as “True”. Interestingly, Mr. Stelter’s claim that the New York Times (NYT) is not failing is based on purely economic concerns; Fortune reports that Mr. Trump’s opposition to the NYT has only served to bolster the periodical, whose stock was trading at a nine year high as of July 2017. Reuters corroborates this claim, as the globalist news outlet reported profits of over 15 million dollars in the second quarter of 2017.

 

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Mr. Trump Tends to Criticize the New York Time’s Poor Reporting. Since Turkish Football is a Subject I Know A lot About, I Have To Agree Here. Image Courtesy Of: http://money.cnn.com/2018/01/02/media/new-york-times-president-trump/index.html

 

What is surprising is that CNN and Fortune do not seem to understand that the “success” of a news outlet is not defined in terms of profit; rather its success is defined by its service to the people. Norwegian-American Sociologist Thorstein Veblen pointed out long ago that the commercialization of both media and education would have negative consequences, since it would mean that both would write for profits and—by extension—for the interests of those who would be providing investment. Taken in these terms, it should be clear that the main (lame)stream media is most certainly failing; they are writing in the interests of the global capitalist elite, but not at all in the interests of the millions of middle and lower class citizens at large.

A recent piece in the New York Times—written by John Branch about famous Turkish footballer Hakan Sukur—is a perfect example of the failing New York Times and, indeed, the failing main(lame) stream media in general. The 3 May 2018 piece makes Mr. Sukur out to be an innocent refugee, escaping an “authoritarian regime”; it is a portrait of an immigrant “trying to build his own American dream for his family”. While this, of course, follows the pro-immigrant and pro-victim narrative of globalism, the truth is a bit more complicated than Mr. Branch admits (or, perhaps, even knows—after all, journalism in the modern era has become a refuge for surface level analyses which often lack knowledge of deeper details). While many of my fellow Sociologists mock “the American Dream”, it is interesting that the NYT is so eager to bring it up—especially when looking to legitimate a famous figure who is being described as an innocent victim.

The reality is that Mr. Sukur was once a close ally of Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan—indeed, he eventually resigned from his position as an MP in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and came under attack from Mr. Erdogan himself, mainly because of his support for the shadowy Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen. While it is likely that Mr. Sukur did not have full knowledge of Mr. Gulen’s plans for Turkey, his support for the cleric is undeniable. He was likely a pawn, whose celebrity status could be used in order to sway public opinion in Turkey (similar to the way Lebron James is used in the U.S.), but that does not excuse the New York Times’ atrocious reporting.

 

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A Bizarre Triangle…Mr. Erdogan (Left), Mr. Sukur (Center), and Mr. Gulen (Right). Image Courtesy Of: http://kaanil.blogcu.com/hakan-sukur-fethullah-gulen-le-ne-konustu/18008146

 

In Mr. Branch’s story, he seems to insinuate that the attempted coup of 15 July 2016 was a good thing (after all, authoritarian regimes are “bad” and need toppling). Please see the passage in question:

It was his [Mr. Sukur’s] first interview since he left Turkey in 2015, nearly a year before the 2016 deadly coup that tried, and failed, to topple the authoritarian regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a former friend and political ally.

This kind of framing—a topic I have written about in the past—would lead the uninformed reader to believe that a coup deposing an “authoritarian” leader would be a “good” thing. Of course, this is far from the truth—a successful Gulenist coup in Turkey would have been disastrous. Still, this is the kind of shoddy reporting that has come to be the norm in the United States, a place where famous political commentators like Bill Maher openly call for coups to depose leaders they don’t like (such as Mr. Trump).

The most insidious passage—indeed, the most repulsive portion—of Mr. Branch’s reporting, however, comes in his description of Mr. Gulen’s Hizmet movement:

Gulen’s Hizmet movement has, for decades, infiltrated Turkey’s institutions with a moderate strain of Islam, trying to nudge the country from the inside toward democracy, education and cultural openness more associated with Europe than much of today’s Middle East.

I have bolded the most important parts since they are, in my mind, absurd. That the New York Times—one of the leading news providers in not only the United States, but the entire world—should describe a movement which attempted to subvert Turkish democracy by attempting a military coup as one which tried to “nudge the country toward democracy” is a gross misrepresentation of reality. The New York Times seems to think that they can shape public opinion by using catch phrases and catch words like “moderate Islam”, “cultural openness”, and “democracy” in order to shape public opinion. This is, very clearly, an egregious example of an attempt by the media to support a very dangerous man in the name of progressive politics.

Observers should be aware of the duplicitous nature of the globalist mass media which prefers to play on emotions rather than report on facts. Mr. Gulen is no democrat, nor is he a champion of any kind of Islam; rather, he is a capitalist who looks to transform Islam into one more amenable to capitalist ideals (as the sociologist Cihan Tugal masterfully explains in his book Passive Revolution: Absorbing the Islamic Challenge to Capitalism). That the New York Times would support a man who quite possibly ordered the bombing of his own nation’s parliament—and whose purported actions killed almost three hundred innocent people—as a supporter of “democracy” is both absurd and extremely troubling. For those of us who expect veracity from our news media—and despite the fact that ABC news thinks “The Colbert Report” is legitimate news (it is not)—this kind of reporting needs to be called out. It has no place in a country which prides itself on “freedom of the press”. We should all strive to take back our countries, and our free press, in the process.

 

 

 

 

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A New Turkey? Turkish Elections 2015

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On June 8 2015 Turkey woke up to a new Turkey, but not the “New Turkey” that AKP leader and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been promoting over the course of his party’s uncontested 13 years of leadership. Instead, as many Turkish pundits have noted, it is a return to the old fragmented political landscape that dominated the country in the 1990s that paved the way for the AKP’s rise to power in 2002. There are some bright spots of hope peaking through the clouds but it remains unclear if Turkey’s politicians have the wherewithal—or desire—to clear away the clouds of uncertainty.

The Situation

The ruling AKP was looking to get 66 percent of 550 parliamentary seats that would have allowed them to get the 367 seats necessary to hold a constitutional referendum and change to a presidential system, allowing President Erdogan to raise the role of president from the largely ceremonial position it is now to an executive position. Instead, the AKP couldn’t even get the 276 seats necessary to rule on their own as the majority party; their share fell from the 49 percent they had in 2011 to 41 percent, giving them 258 seats as opposed to the 327 seats they now control.

This leaves three options. The AKP could seek to rule as a minority and go to new elections within 45 days if no government can be formed, as has been reported on the front pages of pro-government newspapers, but it is unclear as of now how the AKP can regain the votes they have lost to various opposition parties due to Mr. Erdogan’s polarizing rhetoric during the campaign and polarizing actions during his rule. In fact, this is the first time in the history of the AKP that they came away from an election having lost votes in all 81 of the country’s provinces. Therefore the AKP could continue to rule as a minority government past the initial 45 days with the other parties in question pledging their support but not looking for any ministries; still many pundits have said this scenario could lead to early elections in six to seven months.

The second option is forming a coalition government with one of the opposition parties, but that option seems unlikely given the sharp divide between all four parties. The main opposition, the secular and leftist Republican People’s Party (CHP), managed 25% of the vote and 132 seats but they stated before elections that they would not want to work with the AKP. As Ataturk’s party, this isn’t shocking. The election’s surprise package, the leftist and Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) that garnered 13% and 80 seats would be another option but their leader Selahattin Demirtas reiterated that they would not work with the AKP either, preferring to be a “strong opposition”. That leaves the right wing nationalist party—the Nationalist Action Party (MHP)—seemingly looking like the most likely partner for the AKP since they tend to get their support from Turkey’s conservative Anatolian heartland and many pundits think it was AKP voters moving to the MHP that allowed them to increase their representation to 16% and 80 seats from the 13% and 53 seats they won in 2011. Reality, however, is different and the leader of the MHP, Devlet Bahceli, is a veteran of Turkish politics and knows that to work with the AKP would mean effectively losing the 31 seats his party was able to gain. Unwilling to betray his voters, he said that his party was willing to be a main opposition and that “A snap election will happen whenever it will happen.” There is still, of course, room for maneuvering in the next 45 days and the MHP could be convinced to not give up a chance to be part of the country’s ruling coalition.

The third option would be a coalition without the AKP between the CHP, MHP, and HDP but that is even more unlikely. The HDP was able to gain votes from outside the Kurdish Southeast through traditionally CHP voters, shown by the fact that the CHP maintained a stable number of votes from 2011. CHP strongholds like Izmir Province (10.5%), Aydin Province(9.1%), Istanbul’s Besiktas district (13.2%), and Istanbul’s Kadikoy district (10.2 %) saw uncharacteristically large amounts of HDP votes and a drop in CHP votes from 2011. This is likely due to the HDP’s platform of appealing not only to Kurds but to other ethnic minorities, LGBT groups, and progressive liberals in urban areas. A voter in Istanbul’s traditionally CHP district of Sariyer said “In this election a lot of Turks abandoned their ideological preferences and voted strategically to derail Erdogan’s one-man rule.” But even if the CHP would consider working with the fellow leftist HDP (who, by the way, said they would support the CHP and MHP if they chose to work together) despite fears of Kurdish separatism, the ultra-nationalist MHP has implied that it would never agree to working with a Kurdish party. With the parties so divided it is worth looking at the few bright spots that are emerging as the dust settles.

 

The Bright Spots of Hope

The most obvious success of this election is the end of Mr. Erdogan’s megalomaniacal designs on controlling the Turkish political system. As many pundits have observed, this is essentially the end of any dreams of a presidential system. The AKP simply cannot count on the kind of support it saw in 2007 and 2011, and some have said that this represents the start of a downward trend for the AKP.

The AKP’s Neo-Ottoman designs have also been dealt a blow. Even if Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called to his supporters in the Balkans, Central Asia, and North Africa in his post election speech the AKP did not gather majorities from Turks living in many of these counties. In the Balkans Albania voted for the MHP, Macedonia voted for the HDP, and Bulgaria voted for the CHP. In Eurasia Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan voted for the CHP, while in the Middle East Bahrain, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar all voted for the CHP as well. As an American I will also note that the AKP only managed 16.41 percent in the United States—the CHP got 44.32 percent and the HDP 24.05 percent.

The rhetoric of the HDP has also been refreshing and it looks as if they are trying to distance themselves from the violence of the past that took the lives of over 20,000 people in conflicts between the Kurdish separatists of the PKK and the Turkish military. As I hoped in the wake of the Gezi protests of June 2013 it seems that some of the CHP are beginning to empathize with the oppression minorities have faced under previous Kemalist governments after facing the same kind of oppression under the AKP. With the HDP’s rise to parliament there is hope that Turkish politics can move away from the zero-sum game that it has been and become more inclusive. The fact that HDP officials have recognized that they “will not betray their borrowed votes” is a good step, since the HDP took votes not only from a few CHP supporters but also a large number of AKP supporters, especially in the southeast, as shown in the graphic below.

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Image Courtesy Of: http://www.cumhuriyet.com.tr/haber/secim_2015/294442/HDP_oylari_bakin_nereden_geldi__AKP_secmenini_sasirtacak_harita.html

 

The onus will be on them to match their words with concrete actions and put the days of violence in the past. Mr. Demirtas—unfortunately dubbed the “Kurdish Obama”—will certainly have a lot of work to do in order to clear up the image of Kurds as terrorists, with his brother currently living in northern Iraq as a PKK member.

The presence of a few minorities in parliament is also a step in the right direction and represents a step away from the push for Sunni Islam that the AKP has supported in recent years. 4 Christians—one from the AKP, one from the CHP, and two from the HDP—were voted into Parliament, along with two representatives of Turkey’s Yezidi community as well. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the CHP, had said in April that “We do not want division in this society. We want to grow and develop together,” when introducing the CHP’s Armenian candidate Selina Dogan. It is worth noting that his words mirror the rhetoric that has come from the HDP. Despite these glimmers of hope, however, there still remains much more to be done.

 

The Clouds of Uncertainty

The most obvious sign of uncertainty following the elections came from the economy, and pundits have begun focusing on the possibility of economic instability in Turkey. The Lira weakened 5 percent against the Dollar on Monday morning, exposing long-standing vulnerability in the economy, but there is still some optimism that the central bank could regain independence.

Economic instability is to be expected after any election in a divided polity, so it does not come as a surprise. The more vexing uncertainties that have been uncovered by this election are political. If the AKP is unable to form a coalition government they could play up the instability caused by the election results and campaign for a return to single party rule if early elections are called for. Burhan Kuzu, the AKP deputy and head of the parliamentary constitution commission, stated his opinion in no uncertain terms: “The parliamentary system is a curse for the whole world. In Turkey only majority governments ever worked, coalitions always destroyed it.” He then said that the only solution would be an executive presidency, and if AKP supporters are conned by this type of rhetoric it could lead to more instability—after all, election results showed that 60 percent of voters effectively rejected Erdogan’s push for an executive presidency.

Unfortunately, the three opposition parties may not be able to come together soon enough to forestall such a plan. The MHP does not want to deal with the Kurdish HDP and, sadly, neither do the hardliners of the CHP. Social media has been ablaze with articles like this one labeling the Kurds as, variously, “terrorists” and “murderers”, among other things. Mr. Erdogan himself called them “Atheists” and “traitors” during the election campaign in order to appeal to his conservative support base. Even if many liberals see the HDP’s rise as healthy for Turkish democracy it is still worrying that the one thing that the CHP and AKP hardliners—as divided as they are on opposite ends of the political spectrum—can agree on is a hatred for the Kurds. But what can be done? They were told to join in politics instead of taking up arms, and now they are being rejected from politics as soon as they have been able to get involved. It is also true that the violence inflicted on the Turkish state by Kurdish terrorists in the PKK during the 1990s is unforgiveable and left its mark on the Turkish people; understandably such memories die hard. Indeed the zero-sum nature of Turkish politics is solidifying and with this kind of mentality no one—except Mr. Erdogan, perhaps—will win.

We can only hope that cooler, rational, heads prevail and that true inclusive democracy can rise out of this difficult situation. The only road to a healthy—and strong—Turkish society rises in putting the hatreds of the past in the past, in order to heal the rifts created by the 13 year AKP policy of divide and rule. But the political situation is clear. There is no consensus but there are four main camps: The conservative Islamists, the Turkish nationalists, the Turkish liberal nationalists, and the Kurdish liberal nationalists. In fact, when you combine the two leftist parties (ignoring for a moment the ethnic divide) their 40% matches the amount of votes won by the conservatives of the AKP. In order to bridge the gap ethnic and religious identities must be respected but not underlined. Easier said than done.

 

NOTE:

Football also played its part in this election. Hakan Sukur, the former AKP deputy who resigned from the party and ran as an independent failed to enter parliament this election. Another footballer—and former strike partner with Hakan Sukur at Galatasaray (They were called the “twin towers” in the 1990s)—Saffet Sancakli was elected as an MHP representative from Kocaeli province. As the party’s fortunes go, so too do the footballers. With the Gulenists and AKP on a downward trend their representative from the footballing community bows out while the MHP, on an upward trend, provides another politician from a footballing background with a shot at a career in politics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Turkish PM Fires Another Salvo at Hakan Sukur on the Campaign Trail

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A few months ago I wrote about the political fortunes of Galatasaray legend Hakan Şükür. On July 17th Mr. Şükür was once again in the news, this time in the context of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s campaign for the presidency.

At a rally for Mr. Erdoğan’s presidential campaign in the Adapazarı district of Sakarya province (Mr. Şükür’s home town) there was an interesting poster serving as the backdrop of the stage from which Mr. Erdoğan was to speak. It was a picture taken most likely in parliament: Mr. Şükür wears a worried look with his hand on his forehead resembling a man who has shown up at an airport having forgotten his passport. The back of Mr. Erdoğan’s head is visible in the foreground, looking down on Mr. Şükür, who has a comment bubble above his head that reads “Abi ben Sakaryalıların yüzüne nasıl bakarım?”—“Brother, how will I look Sakaryans in the eye?”.

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This is, of course, a not so subtle strike at Mr. Şükür, a hometown hero to many Sakaryans as a man who made it out of provincial Turkey to play football at the highest levels in Italy, England, and at the World Cup. As has been Mr. Şükür’s custom, his reply came via twitter:

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Hırsızlığımız, arsızlığmız, yolsuzluğumuz yok. Sakaryalılarında, mılletimin de yüzüne bakarız çok şükür. Allah’ın yüzüne baka bilmek önemli.”

“We have no theft, insolence, or corruption. I can look Sakaryans and my country in the eye thankfully. It is important to be able to look Allah in the eye.”

While the ongoing rhetorical battle between the Prime Minister and ex-footballer is amusing, it also points to deeper issues within the Turkish political scene. Mr. Şükür is a former AKP member and supporter of the “cemaat”, led by preacher Fethullah Gülen, and that is the fissure that lies on the surface. Below that, however, is a Prime Minister that repeatedly resorts to the crudest of measures so as to prove his leadership abilities. When a leader campaigning to be the president of a nation resorts to tactics more befitting of a schoolyard bully—such as demeaning his fellow citizens (political opponents or not) –it does not bode well for the democratic future of that nation.

A Humbling Few Days For Former Turkish Soccer Great Hakan Şükür May Portend Further Moves by the Turkish Government

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Turkey is a country where if you expect the most absurd thing to happen…it may very well occur. The latest such event happened in Istanbul’s Sancaktepe neighborhood a few days ago on April 8th. The local soccer stadium—which up until then had been named “Sancaktepe Hakan Şükür Stadium”, after the footballer who is arguably Turkey’s most famous—is now just plain old “Sancaktepe Municipal Stadium”. Workers were sent to the stadium to take down the old lettering just days after the AKP’s victory in local elections (In English and Turkish). And, in further insult to injury, two days ago—April 13th 2014—Hakan Şükür’s name was also erased from the Esenyurt municipal stadium in Istanbul’s Esenyurt district (In Turkish). Now, how did we get here?

Even casual fans of European soccer will recognize Hakan Şükür’s name—after all, he was Turkey’s marquee player in the late 1990s and early 2000s, scoring 51 goals in 112 appearances for Turkey (One of those was the fastest goal in World Cup Finals history, a strike after just 10.8 seconds against South Korea). On the club level he was Galatasaray’s talismanic striker, finishing third in the European Golden Boot competition with an astounding 38 goals in 1996. After helping Galatasaray win the UEFA cup in 2000 (the only Turkish club success in Europe) he moved to Italian giants Inter Milan for a season and a half before a few unsuccessful stints with Parma and Blackburn Rovers. He returned to Galatasaray to see out his career, winning two league titles and a cup title before retiring at the end of the 2008 season.

After retirement from football Mr. Şükür decided to try his hand in yet another game—this time it was the game of Turkish politics. On June 18, 2011 he became an MP from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development party. This did not come as a surprise to his legions of fans; Mr. Şükür did not hide his piety during his playing days and some circles criticized him for creating a rift between religious players and non-religious players in the locker room during his final years at Galatasaray.

For a while this was a boon for the AKP, especially because many times people in Turkey choose to support political parties as they would a soccer team—fanatically and unquestioningly. His eminently recognizable name on the ballot no doubt helped bring in many new voters for the AKP. In the wake of the corruption scandal that rocked the AKP in December, however, Mr. Şükür chose to resign from the party on December 16, 2013 but still remain a member of parliament as an independent. It has been thought that he was under orders from the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen—Prime Minister Erdoğan’s backer-turned-enemy—who, from exile in the hills of Pennsylvania, has waged a war on the AKP by uncovering the corruption scandal through his vast network of supporters within the Turkish judiciary and domestic police force. Mr. Erdoğan responded by going on a witch-hunt of sorts, reorganizing domestic security forces and government offices in a bid to rid them of Gülenist supporters.

But the Prime Minister is now continuing his assault. In a move typical of his populist style of rule he has now taken on Mr. Şükür in the very arena he made his name in—sports. This is surely the simplest way to shame Mr. Şükür for abandoning the AKP, a well-played political move by Mr. Erdoğan which carries very little risk but could bring great reward in terms of political and social capital within Turkey. In fact, it is possible that Mr. Şükür was seen as a “soft target” following a few incidents involving him in the past weeks. After the AKP victory in the elections Mr. Şükür said that “we must respect the election results as a part of democracy”. The public responded by asking “When you left the party you were elected to you didn’t care about the public’s choices, did it just now come to your mind?” (In Turkish). Later, he was even attacked April 2nd 2014 at the funeral of a late Turkish soccer coach, where an unidentified man said “You betrayed our Prime Minister and our country!” before being dragged away (In Turkish). Such words show how closely many in Turkey identify with Mr. Erdoğan, and how they take any slights to him personally.

Mr. Şükür, for his part, seemed amused by the ridiculous nature of developments. Following the events at Sancaktepe stadium he tweeted to his 746,000 followers “Instead of having your picture on a wall, have your name heard in the world :)”. He followed this up with another tweet following the disappearance of his name at Esenyurt Stadium: “May no one forget: The most solid and final nameplate is your tombstone. And everyone lies beneath that stone not with their name, but with the account of their truth in servitude”(In Turkish). The religious underpinnings to this last tweet were, I can only assume, intentionally blatant.

Who knows what will happen in the coming days, but this much is certain—Prime Minister Erdoğan has started moving against his enemies, as he promised following his election victory when he announced that “they will pay”. Though this is a small step aimed at one former disciple, it would be fair to assume that more wide-ranging and concrete moves will be made in the coming months.

 

Note: All translations are mine.

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Hakan Şükür From Football (Image from: http://ball72.com/hakan-sukur.html) . . .

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To Politics (Image from: http://www.zaman.com.tr/_hakan-sukur-ak-partiden-istifa-etti_2184204.html)

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Workers were sent to the Sancaktepe stadium to take down the old lettering just days after the AKP’s victory in local elections (Image from: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/26182417.asp)

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Esenyurt Stadium Before (Image from: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26215754.asp) . . .

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And After (Image from: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26215754.asp)