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

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

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

cArsi

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

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

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

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

 

Evladım TOMA’yı ele geçirdik demişsiniz.

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

 

– Barış sen Beşiktaşlısın değil mi, çArşı mensubu musun?

– Hayır Fenerbahçeliyim. (Barış)

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

-No I’m a Fenerbahçe fan. (Barış)

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

SONSÖZ: BEŞİKTAŞ

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

Epilogue: BEŞIKTAŞ

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sen demedin mi?

“ Mayıs: 1 Sermaye: 0 “

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

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

 

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

 

The next hearing will be April 2, 2015.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

SONSÖZ: BEŞİKTAŞ

Bize: “Size ne?” diyorlar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sen demedin mi?

“ Mayıs: 1 Sermaye: 0 “

“çArşı Nükleer Santrallere Karşı”

“Sizin Nükleeriniz Varsa Bizim Metan Gazımız Var”

“Nükleersiz Türkiye”

“Karadeniz Kanserden ölmesin Ulan!”

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

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

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

Çocuklarda kaldı aklımız;

“Alayınıza Sobe Ulan” “çArşı çocuk pornosuna karşı”

“çArşı Aile İçi Şiddete de Karşı”

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

“Padişah değilim çeksem otursam

Saraylar kursam da asker yetirsem

Hediyem yoktur ki dosta götürsem

İki damla yaştan gayrı nem kaldı”

Aklımız vicdanımızda kaldı;

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

Aklımız sokak hayvanlarında kaldı…

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

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

Şimdi bizi yerin dibine gömmek istiyorlar.

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

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

N’oldu ? Aklımız fikrimiz madenlerde kaldı…

“Ölümün taşeronları hiç mi doymayacak bu siyah kâra”

“Siyah Bile Kaybetmiş Asaletini Yokluğumuzun Karanlığında”

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

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

Irkçılığa karşı olduk,”Hepimiz Zenciyiz” dedik.

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

Aklımız ihtiyaç sahiplerinde kaldı.

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

Akıl Van’da kaldı…Karada, karakışta kaldı.

Şirince’de ”Kıyamet Seninle Kopmaya Geldik”

La biz size n’ettik?

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

Aklımız hâlâ Filistinli Hanzala’da…

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

“çArşı Köy Okullarına Koşuyor”

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

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

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

Vicdanınızla kalın!

Football Clubs Continue to Respond to the Soma Mine Disaster in Turkey as the Government Weighs In

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Since news of the Soma mine disaster broke last night there have been many responses, both from football clubs and from government officials in Turkey. Sadly, the latter have been less than encouraging. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had an opportunity to win over his detractors by taking a conciliatory tone in the wake of disaster. Unfortunately he decided to stick with his harsh and unrelenting rhetoric, which does not bode well for the country’s future.

As the death toll rose to 274—the biggest industrial disaster in Turkish history–Erdogan made his move in an interview with the Soma municipality. Perhaps, in fact, Reuters wrote it best:

“Explosions like this in these mines happen all the time. It’s not like these don’t happen elsewhere in the world,” he [Erdogan] said, reeling off a list of global mining accidents since 1862.

Reel off he did. Hurriyet.com carried the Turkish version here from which I got the italicized portions below. His comments were, frankly, embarrassing. A sampling is below, taken from what I assume to be the interview with reporters at the Soma Municipality (so as to excuse the grammatical errors even in the Hurriyet transcript):

The video is here starting from 14:00:

 

İngiltere’de geçmişe gidiyorum, 1862 bu madende göçük 204 kişi ölmüş. 1866 361 kişi ölmüş İngiltere. İngiltere’de 1894 patlama 290. Fransa’ya geliyorum 1906 dünya tarihinin en ölümlü ikinci kazası 1099. Daha yakın dönemlere geleyim diyorum, Japonya 1914’de 687. Çin 1942, gaz ve kömür karışmanın neden olduğu sayılıyor ölüm sayısı 1549.

 Değerli arkadaşlar yine Çin’de 1960 metan gazı patlaması 684. Ve Japonya’da 1963’te yine kömür tozu patlaması 458. Hindistan 375. 1975’te metan gazı alev aldı, maden çatısı çöktü ve 372. Bu ocakların bu noktada bu tür kazaları sürekli olan şeyler.

Bakın Amerika. Teknolojisiyle her şeyiyle. 1907’de 361.

My translation:

I go to the past in England. 1862 in a mine there was a cave in 204 people died. [In] 1866 361 people died [in] England. In England in 1894 [there was an] explosion 290 [died]. I’m coming to France, [in] 1906 [was] world history’s second most deadly accident, 1099 [died]. I say we should come to more recent history, in Japan in 1914 687 [died]. China 1942, because gas and coal mixed the death count was 1549.

My dear friends again in China in 1960 a methane gas explosion caused 684 [deaths]. And in Japan in 1963 again a coal dust explosion [caused] 458 [deaths]. In India 375 [deaths]. In 1975 methane gas caught fire, the roof of the mine collapsed and 372 [died]. In these places in coal mines these kinds of accidents are things that constantly happen.

Look [at] America. With its technology [and] everything. In 1907 361 [died].

 

I can only shake my head. I don’t need to go into the details of the history of Turkish industrial accidents—Reuters has that covered. But the fact that the leader of a country that is listed as one of the world’s leading economic powers—a founding member of the OECD and G20—should resort to statistics from two centuries ago is astounding. Does he mean to say Turkey is comparable to England in 1862 and the United States in 1907? This is an insult to the development Turkey has seen under the AKP and to its standing in the world today. Given these words, it does not surprise me that protests broke out across Turkey today . After all, this is symptomatic of the rampant privatization that has occurred under the AKP government—unions argue that “safety standards were not improved once formerly state-run facilities were leased to private companies”  (the mine in question in Soma is privately owned). Corruption isn’t only morally wrong, its dangerous.

I write this because I believe that Prime Minister Erdogan, as the leader of a democratic country, should have been more conciliatory in the wake of tragedy instead of dredging up numbers from the distant past in order to provide context for a terrible tragedy. That said, I prefer to let the dust settle and allow families time to grieve before pointing fingers of blame (even if the direction those fingers will point in is fairly obvious). With that, I present some heartwarming news from the football world, which Hurriyet.com has collected (http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/26418723.asp and http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/26414735.asp ).

Many teams have started a #TribunHasilatlariSomaya campaign, and there have been many responses:

–       The proceeds from this week’s Kardemir Karabukspor match with Sivasspor will be donated to those affected by the tragedy.

–       The supporter groups of Ankaragucu—themselves a team formed by workers at a munitions plant during the Turkish war of independence—will donate money they collect to the families of those who lost their lives in Soma.

–       The proceeds from Besiktas’s match with Genclerbirligi will be donated to those affected by the tragedy.

–       Galatasaray will donate the proceeds from an upcoming friendly to the victims and their families as well.

–       Fenerbahce’s fans at 12 numara.org have also started a campaign to raise money to help those affected.

 

Also internationally Barcelona added their voice of support to Liverpool’s.

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From England (whose mining tragedies were listed by the Prime Minister) condolences came from Chelsea and Sheffield United.

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Schalke 04 from Germany, a miners club themselves (their nickname is Die Knappen—the Miners) from Gelsenkirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia, added their voice as well in a meaningful show of solidarity.

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Respect to all these clubs for bringing international recognition to this tragedy that may well have repercussions for Turkish politics in the not so distant future.

E-Ticketing Scheme Hits Roadblock in Turkey: What It Means For Turkey and Football

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On May 8th a court in Turkey decided to halt the new “Passolig” system “to avoid consumers being treated unjustly” according to a report in the Hurriyet Daily News. The new system had come into effect almost a month ago on April 15 and heralded an end to traditional paper tickets sold at ticket offices. Anyone who wanted to attend a match in either of Turkey’s top two divisions—the Spor Toto Super Lig and PTT First Division—had to get a card. At the time I was aghast. Having gone to many matches internationally I immediately thought of those like me—how would any foreign football fans get tickets?

The courts should be commended for making a decision that promotes both the health of Turkish civil society and Turkish democracy, not to mention Turkish football as a whole! After implementation the system led to drastically reduced attendances for Spor Toto Super Lig games. In fact, just one (1!) fan of Eskisehirspor acquired one of the new cards. Even when some clubs lowered ticket prices to just 1 Turkish Lira (0.47 USD, 0.35 EUR, 0.27 GBP) it failed to spark interest in the cards. This is mainly because in order to obtain the Passolig card it means providing a picture and personal information—which is written on the back. The card is basically a combination of an ID card and bank card (issued by MasterCard). The rather optimistic reasoning behind the need for personal information can be read as a poor attempt to justify the most blatant of moves to full-on Industrial Football:

 

PASSOLİG Card not only allows fans to safely enter stadiums without waiting in queues, but it also provides clubs a chance to know more about their fans and create new sources of income. Moreover, this card presents its users a wide range of shopping options with its widespread contracted merchants. Its personalized campaigns will both enrich and facilitate user’s lives.

PASSOLİG Credit Card, along with PASSOLİG Debit Card and PASSOLİG Cüzdan Pre-paid Card, are designed to meet all your needs.

 From: http://www.passolig.com.tr/sikca-sorulan-sorular

 

Of course, the football fans saw through this. The desire for personal information is not to create better understanding of consumers and their desires, it is more to curtail the actions of fans that the government sees as a subversive element. Over forty supporter groups signed a declaration saying “The e-ticket system does not only demote the concept of supporters to a customer, but it also files all our private data. The system aims to prevent supporters from organizing and is designed to demolish stadium culture and supporter identity.” One look at all the promotions available to Passolig card holders would support the idea that supporters are being relegated to the role of consumer and consumer alone. For now, the court’s decision is a small victory over the pervasive forces of Industrial Football. But that is not the only victory.

The simple fact that an NGO—the Supporters Rights Solidarity Center (Taraf-Der)—successfully applied to the consumers’ court is in itself a victory for Turkish civil society. Of course, when the first hearing of the case is heard September 25 we will see just how far-reaching this victory is. But it does ensure that the new season will start without the Passolig cards, and therefore certainly represents a victory.

One of the basic facets of a representative democracy (like Turkey) is respect for NGOs that represent the people—one need only look at the victories of the NAACP in the United States to understand this. This is the reason that this court decision should be heralded, especially if it leads to substantial changes in the Passolig card system next fall. While it is extremely difficult to predict how things will play out in the ever changing and extremely complicated halls of the Turkish justice system, I feel that the ultimate outcome of this case will provide a bellwether for the state of—and health of—Turkey’s democracy going forward. As Turkish football is an extremely profitable sector in the Turkish economy I hope that the judges treat this case with the importance it deserves.

 

Note: The statistics posted below are from Sendika.org, a socialist website that—in their own words—aims to “say hello to the proletariat and row against the neo-liberal tide”. With the disclaimer about the website’s politics out of the way, please see how the Passolig card system effected attendances for a few matches in its first weekend, the 30th week of the Turkish Spor Toto Superleague season. Personally I take these numbers with grain of salt, but they still give a good idea of the situation:

Kayseri Erciyesspor-Trabzonspor

Attendance: 11,000

Attendance for the previous home match against Elazigspor: 23.550

Akhisar Belediyespor-Kayserispor

Attendance: 1,100

Attendance for the previous home match against Eskisehirspor: 2,500

Gaziantepspor-Genclerbirligi

Attendance: 4,200

Attendance for the previous home match against Kasimpasaspor: 8,000

Bursaspor-Elazigspor

Attendance: 20,000

Attendance for the previous home match against Galatasaray: 23,500

Besiktas-Fenerbahce

Attendance: 20,000

Attendance for the previous home derby against Galatasaray: 77,512

 

The stands at the Istanbul Ataturk Stadium were left empty during Besiktas’ match with city rivals Kasimpasaspor:

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/court-halts-controversial-football-e-ticketing-plan.aspx?pageID=238&nID=66193&NewsCatID=362

 

Just 285 Passolig owners made the trip to watch Kayseri Erciyesspor face Trabzonspor at the Kadir Has Stadium in Kayseri. Along with 2000 season ticket holders (exempt from the Passolig Card system), it meant just 2,285 fans were in attendance.

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Image Courtesy of: http://www.posta.com.tr/spor/HaberDetay/-Passolig–basladi-tribunler-bos-kaldi-.htm?ArticleID=224823

Turkey’s March 30, 2014 Municipal Elections Complete After Turkish Politicians Donned Team Colors on the Campaign Trail

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The Turkish municipal elections have come and gone, and finally all votes have been counted. Many out there are writing on the relevance —and irrelevance—of the outcome. As some may know, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 45.43% of the vote nationally with 20,560,513 votes compared to 27.77% (12,567,556 votes) for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and 15.27% (6,910,256 votes) for the Nationalist Action Party (MHP)—(For complete results please see CNN Turk’s election homepage, from which I have taken all statistics mentioned in this post unless otherwise noted: http://www.cnnturk.com/secim2014/).

Personally I am not surprised that the Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party won the most municipalities in this election—after all, most districts in Turkey are rural and therefore are part and parcel of the AKP’s main constituency. What is important, however, is how close the vote was in two of the three largest municipalities in the country, Istanbul and Ankara (The third largest city, Izmir, has been a traditional secularist stronghold and this did not change as the CHP won 49.66% of the vote in the province). In Istanbul the AKP candidate Kadir Topbas won 4,096,221 (47.92%) of the vote as opposed to 3,426,602 (40.08%) for the CHP challenger Mustafa Sarigul, and an even closer vote in Ankara (the results of which are currently being contested) resulted in 1.415.973 votes (46.33%) for the AKP incumbent Ibrahim Melih Gokcek and 1,383,786 votes (43.78%) for the CHP challenger Mansur Yavas. Interestingly candidates from the ultra-nationalist third party in this election, the MHP, won just 339,346 (3.97%) in Istanbul and 245,624 (7.77%) in Ankara. Both numbers are far below the 15.27% they garnered nationally.

At this point it helps to look at the results of the last municipal elections in Turkey back in 2009 (Again all statistics are courtesy of CNN Turk: http://secim2009.cnnturk.com). Then too the AKP won, this time 40.04 percent of the vote with 19,073,953 votes while the CHP garnered 28.16% with 13,413,030 votes and the MHP followed with 14.70% with 7,002,686 votes. Interestingly—despite the corruption scandals and ongoing street protests stemming from both domestic and international polices—the AKP gained more than five percent of the vote in 2014’s municipal elections (with just 1.5 million more votes, strangely enough) while the CHP lost just under a percentage point (with a loss of under a million voters) and the MHP gained under a percentage point (with almost the same number of voters). In the big cities is where we see a rather large discrepancy in the 2014 results, however. In the 2009 elections the AKP candidate Kadir Topbas won Istanbul with 44.20% (3,080,593 votes) over the CHP’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu who garnered 36.96% (2,578,623 votes). In the same year Ankara was won by AKP stalwart Ibrahim Melih Gokcek with 38.47% (939,465 votes) over CHP candidate Murat Karayalcin who got 31.50% (769.299 votes). As a note, this years CHP candidate Mansur Yavas ran for the MHP in 2009 and got 656,895 votes, and 26.90% percent of the total vote. This number is much higher than the MHP’s figure this year, which stands at 245,624 votes and 7.77%. What is clear is that despite the results in the rural provinces—which are the AKP’s breadbasket, so to speak—do not reflect on results in the urban metropolises, which have gone against the ruling party.

But what will this mean for Turkey’s future? Unfortunately, I have to say that it does not look good. Such a divided polity—especially in the cities—does not bode well for stability in any democracy. It bodes even less well in a country like Turkey, where the leader’s democratic ambitions have been questioned, and where widespread claims of voting irregularities (In Turkish and English) were answered in the most comical of terms. When questioned as to why electricity was lost on election night in several districts—home to mainly CHP support—in major cities and hindering the vote count, Energy Minister Taner Yildiz blamed the failures on a cat (in English and Turkish). The fact that this was not an April Fool’s joke is certainly cause for concern.

The ruling AKP government will certainly have to answer some questions in the coming days, but their hypocrisy recently makes me doubt that any concrete answers will come. Back in the summer I wrote a post about how politics were to be outlawed in the soccer stadium (also please see: http://www.todayszaman.com/news-322363-turkish-govt-seeks-to-curb-political-chants-in-stadiums.html). Yet, interestingly enough (and in a cynically hypocritical move), Prime Minister Erdogan did not shy away from donning the “home team’s” scarves when on the campaign trail in various cities—the CHP’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu, not to be outdone, did the same; pictures are below. So much for politics and sport being separate in Turkey.

And finally, on a lighter note, this is how some Trabzonspor supporters chose to vote. On Twitter—the same social media site that was banned in Turkey (a ban that President Abdullah Gul himself circumvented, in keeping with his occasional opposition of Prime Minister Erdogan), Trabzonspor fans gave their apathetic opinion on the elections. On their ballots they wrote “2010-2011 Champion Trabzonspor” in reference to the season they finished second to Fenerbahce, who were later indicted in a match fixing scandle, “My Party is Trabzonspor”, “labor’s fight against money” and “our vote won’t count but our conscious will rest’’. It is a strange—and strangely fitting—way to end this particular discussion on Turkish politics.

 

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Trabzonspor Voters Make Their Voice (But Not Vote) Heard (Courtesy: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26116581.asp)

 

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The Culprit Has Been Found–A Cat! (You entered the [electric] Transformer?)

 

Football as the Opiate of the Masses? Turkey’s Politicians Don Team Colors on the Campaign Trail:

23607571 Prime Minister Erdogan campaigning in Sanliurfa province March 11 with a Sanliurfaspor scarf (Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/25981102.asp). Erdogan and the AKP won Sanlifurfa province with 126,637 votes, an overwhelming 60.76% of the province’s vote.

 

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Prime Minister Erdogan campaigning in Batman province with a Batman Petrolspor scarf (Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26011564.asp). Erdogan and the AKP came in second in Batman province with 50,243 votes, 30.78% of the total. The Kurdish BDP won the province with 91,962 votes, 53.83% of the total.

 

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Prime Minister Erdogan campaigning in Adana province March 16 while carrying the duel threat of BOTH an Adanaspor scarf (orange) and Adana Demirspor scarf (light blue) (Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26013823.asp). This is ironic on a couple levels. First of all, the two teams are–as can be imagined–bitter rivals. Ideologically, however, the irony should not be lost on anyone. Adana Demirspor are one of the most staunchly socialist teams in Turkey–the team was founded by the railway workers of Turkish State Railways (TCDD). They are, undoubtebly, the workers’ team. In fact, a few years ago the team faced “communist” Italian side Livorno in a well-publicized friendly–unprecedented, since at the time Livorno were in the first division and Adana Demirspor were mired in the third division. Please see this write-up on another blog about the match (http://fireandflames.blogsport.de/2009/09/13/socialism-a-la-turca-or-adana-demirspor-livorno/), and note the communist flags in the stands. Then think for the moment of the absurdity of a conservative Islamist-leaning Prime Minister campaigning with that team’s scarf around his neck. Oh, and by the way–the AKP finished second in Adana province with 63,594 votes and 32.38% of the total. The winners? None other than the (sometimes) fascist sympathizing MHP (whose supporters fought pitched battles with leftists on the streets of Turkey in the 1970s) who garnered 66,800 votes and 34.01% of the total.

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Prime Minister Erdogan campaigning in Zonguldak province March 26 with a Zonguldakspor scarf (Courtesy of: http://www.yeniakit.com.tr/haber/basbakan-erdogan-millet-pensilvanyaya-osmanli-tokadi-atacaktir-14004.html). Due to the large amount of mining in the region Zonguldakspor are also a worker’s team, supporting the miners. The CHP secured a narrow victory in Zonguldak province with 22,375 votes, 38.80% of the total while the AKP garnered 21,805 votes, 37.81% of the total (Results from Radikal Newspapers website (CNNturk.com still shows the AKP as the victor): http://secim2014.radikal.com.tr/ildetay.aspx?cid=67&bs=1).

 

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Prime Minister Erdogan campaigning in Ordu province March 25 with an Orduspor Scarf (Courtesy of:  http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26073880.asp). The AKP won in Ordu Province with a majority of 95,244 votes, 52.02% of the total.

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Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu from the CHP campaigning in Kocaeli province March 15 with a Kocaelispor scarf (Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/26011498.asp). The CHP could only get 34,787 votes in the province–24.02% of the total–compared to the victorious AKP, which won 71,334 votes and 49.25% of the total.

 

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Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu from the CHP campaigning in Denizli province March 25 sporting a Denizlispor scarf (Courtesy of: http://www.haberler.com/chp-lideri-kilicdaroglu-denizli-de-5828037-haberi/). Again, the CHP finished second in the province with 237,144 votes, 38.76% of the total as compared to the AKP’s 276,927, which was good for 45.26% of the province’s total.

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Opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu from the CHP campaigning in Karabuk province March 12 sporting a Kardemir-Celik Karabukspor scarf (Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/gundem/25993636.asp). The CHP managed a paltry 1,738 votes in the province, good for just 2.61% of the total. The MHP took the province with 34,463 votes and 51.81% of the total (Courtesy of: http://secim2014.radikal.com.tr/ildetay.aspx?cid=78&bs=1). I’m not sure whether or not the MHP candidate Rafet Vergili campaigned in the Karabukspor colors.