Advertisements
Home

Globalism Vs Nationalism In Turkey

Leave a comment

Yet another bomb was detonated in Turkey over the weekend, this time in the Central Anatolian city of Kayseri. A public bus was targeted by a car bomb, resulting in the death of 13 off-duty soldiers and 56 wounded. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blamed the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group, for the bombings saying “The style and goals of the attacks clearly show the aim of the separatist terrorist organisation is to trip up Turkey, cut its strength and have it focus its energy and forces elsewhere. We know that these attacks we are being subjected to are not independent from the developments in our region, especially in Iraq and Syria”. Interestingly, the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) condemned the bombing in a statement that read, in part, “our call is towards ending the politics, tone and language that creates tension, polarization, hostility, chaos and conflict both in terms of internal and foreign affairs”.  Although the party has talked a good game, the fact that they are still close to the PKK has roiled many in Turkey; that they were swift to condemn the attack however suggests that they might realize that the recent shift in the PKK’s tactics will not be good for anyone.

 

Cz3o1uxWEAAz79v.jpg

The HDP Talk a Good Game, But Can They Follow It Up With Concrete Actions? Image Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/hdpdiplomacy/status/810059726667055104/photo/1

 

After the bus bombing protestors in Istanbul and Kayseri ransacked HDP offices in an alarming display of anger that—if left unchecked—could lead to the kind of violence motivated by ethnic difference that has been proven to lead to much worse.

 

son_dakika_kayseri_de_hdp_binasina_saldiri_h81889_c1b1f.gif

Ultra Nationalists Attack HDP Building in Kayseri. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.insanhaber.com/guncel/son-dakika-kayseri-de-hdp-binasina-saldiri-h81889.html

State media—which, as always, is suspect—reported a more refreshing story about nationwide anti-PKK protests, including many in mainly Kurdish areas such as Hakkari province and Diyarbakir province. The Anadolu Agency story reports that “Mehmet Akdeniz, the provincial head of Confederation of Public Servants Trade Unions (Memur-Sen) in Sirnak, said people from all walks of life including Turks, Kurds, and Arabs united for Turkey. ‘The PKK terrorist organization that wanted to smash this brotherhood attacked our people who were going to work and school, and the soldiers who were going on weekend leave’.” The Twitter feed for Kurds News posted pictures and videos of Kurds protesting the PKK, corroborating the Anadolu Agency story. If this is indeed true—that Turks, Kurds, and Arabs united for Turkey—then that is notable.

 

Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 12.46.01 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 12.46.18 PM.png

Screen Shot 2016-12-19 at 12.46.30 PM.png

Kurds Protest the PKK All Over Turkey. Images Courtesy Of: https://twitter.com/newskurds

 

As Mr. Erdogan pointed out, these attacks are not independent from what is happening in Syria, and one of the perpetrators of the 10 December 2016 Vodafone Arena bombing was revealed to have come from Syria.

The relationship between the violence in Syria and Turkey represents the tensions between nationalism and globalism that have ben revealed by both Brexit and Donald Trump’s election victory in the United States. The YPG, the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, have no ties to Turkey or Syria while the concurrent rise of ISIS/ISIL/DAESH in Syria and Iraq has shown the abject failure of Syrian and Iraqi nationalism, revealing the “imagined community” aspects of both countries’ nationalisms (which where only formed out of the remnants of French and British colonialism). Because the YPG similarly have no respect for national identity, they think nothing of committing brutal attacks on Turkish soil, attacks which only serve to alienate what little sympathy they may have at this point. The vast majority of Kurds and Turks have no qualms with one another on an interpersonal basis. However, if the PKK—perhaps in collusion with the YPG—continue their campaign of cowardly attacks on Turkish security forces and civilians alike, they will be further marginalized. The widespread support for security forces in the wake of the stadium bombing shows that the majority of Turks—regardless of ethnic background—are preferring unity to division. This is why the United States’—particularly during the Obama regime—continued support for the YPG in Syria has been such a bone of contention for Turkey. For all the talk of human rights that emanates from Washington, the bureaucrats and politicians seem blind to the fact that normal citizens—like myself—feel unsafe in the Istanbul subway because another bomb could go off at any moment. In Ankara, the climate is so tense that a “State of Emergency” has been declared at sporting events and fans will no longer be able to park their cars near stadiums or bring bags to games. Supporting groups who engage in this kind of violent terrorism that effects daily life should never be tolerated.

But the contradictions of “human rights” are evident for all to see, and the re-settlement of Syrian refugees is just one example of this. Current US President-elect Donald Trump has voiced his opposition to the further settlement of Syrian refugees in the past, saying  “We’ve admitted tens of thousands with no effective screening plan. We have no idea who we are letting in. You’ve seen what happened.” Many on the left in the United States dismiss Mr. Trump’s rhetoric as “Islamophobic” or “xenophobic”, but the problematic results of resettlement have been seen. After a 22-year-old Syrian refugee was arrested for groping a 13-year-old girl in Lowell, Massachusetts, “The city manager of Lowell told his local newspaper Tuesday [07/12/2016] that he was not even notified by the U.S. State Department or its resettlement contractor that Syrians were being delivered to his community.” This follows some of the secrecy surrounding Mr. Obama’s resettlement plan reported by WND:

 

The chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees are demanding the Obama administration provide details of a secret resettlement deal in which the U.S. has agreed to take up to 1,800 mostly Muslim asylum seekers who have been rejected by Australia as illegal aliens.

Congress only learned of the deal through media reports two weeks ago and, according to a letter sent to administration officials by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., the deal is not only a matter of grave national security concern, but it could be illegal.

Notably, the only sites reporting on these kinds of things are Christian outlets like WND or Breitbart, which claims that the 110,000 migrants President Obama plans to bring to the United States will cost Americans 70.4 Billion USD over the next 75 years. State media—which is viewed as “legitimate” by many Americans—has remained conspicuously silent on these issues.

Perhaps that is because President Obama’s tenure has been—to put it nicely—characterized by many less than effective policies in the Middle East. Famous media personality Colonel Oliver North went so far as to call it “genocide”:

 

In the Middle East, the legacy of the Obama admin is genocide, a horrific refugee diaspora and a complete destabilization of the Middle East.

When Obama made his grand apology tour, utopian Arab spring speech in Cairo in June 2009, Syria had 23m people.

Today 12m people have been displaced; 400k+ Killed in Action; and 1.6m wounded.

Syrian civil war, Obama bug-out from Iraq, rise of ISIS, the IS invasion of Iraq, Al-Baghdadi’s “caliphate,” the overthrow of Gadhafi, global spread of radical Islam to 38 countries – all because of the Obama administrations weakness & failure to lead.

Even state media (The Washington Post) ran an editorial on 15 December 2016 critical of President Obama’s failures in the region:

The administration creatively pioneered a third option, which it pursued not only in Syria but also in Ukraine and elsewhere: Between action and inaction, it chose inconsequential action. There is the Obama doctrine! We backed moderate Syrian rebels, but not as seriously or as generously as the immoderate Syrian rebels were backed.

 

That state media in the United States should voice these kinds of opinions is notable, even if the editorial does not underline the fact that some of the Obama administrations actions did have consequences; opposition to President Assad would never have gotten this strong without American “action”. Now millions more have died in Syria than ever would have under a (relatively) stable Assad regime. But human rights told us that President Assad was a “bad man”, right? On the surface, yes. But beneath the surface there are real geopolitical ambitions that could only be achieved through a destabilization of the region and the regime.

The reason I bring this up is because, after being back in Istanbul for a week, I can feel a tension that didn’t exist in the past. A past before the Syrian war, a past before weekly bombings. And the fact that President Obama had a hand in creating this environment is something that—as both an American and a Turk—I find deeply disturbing. One way that the Syrian conflict has seeped into Turkish daily life is the presence of three million refugees. Mr. Trump thinks they would have a problem settling into American society; given that they have problems in Turkey—itself a Muslim country—adds some credence to his argument. Take this story from the Washington Post, about how Arabic signs are being taken down in Istanbul’s Fatih district which has become “Little Syria”.

 

5838596e0d2b4.image.jpg

What Happened to Turkey’s Language Revolution? Arabic Dominates Storefronts in Istanbul. Image Courtesy Of: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/arabic-signs-face-removal-threat-in-istanbuls-little-syria/2016/11/25/ddc2cd10-b322-11e6-bc2d-19b3d759cfe7_story.html?utm_term=.5be3679a9154

 

While Turkey has opened its borders to Syrian refugees, allowing them access to education and even giving them business opportunities (much of the Arabic language signage mentioned in the story above is for restaurants), the hospitality seems to have been lost on some of the Syrian business owners. The Post reports that “Some Syrian residents are vowing to ignore the order, seeing it as an assault on their culture,” and a dual national Turkish-Syrian restauranteur predicts that attempts to remove the signage will be resisted by violence; Mehmet Basil Souccar said “You can be sure that if they enforce this order, there will be a very ugly picture in Aksaray”.

Mr. Souccar’s comments are—to me—disgustingly disrespectful. Turkey is not Syria. Refugees are guests, and as such they should do their best to adjust to their new surroundings. To threaten violence against the country that is hosting you is extremely disrespectful, to put it in as kind of terms as possible. If we want refugees to be tolerated in the era of globalism, we cannot afford to focus on ethnic difference to the extent that it renders assimilation impossible and creates an “us vs. them” mentality. But it is part of the struggle between globalism and nationalism that was unleashed in the post Cold War era and that is now coming to a head following the disastrous policies of the West in Syria.

The responses to this struggle are varied, but ignoring the enduring power of nationalism would be a mistake. The decision of the PKK to target the state in public settings—like a soccer stadium and public transportation—could prove to be a mistake. If Turks and Kurds can come together, recognizing their common destiny as citizens of one country and work together for a more equal society, then there may be a way out of the current vortex of violence that is hovering over the country. In order to do this, however, a less fascistic and more inclusive brand of civic—and not ethnic—conception of Turkish nationalism must be cultivated. The failures of globalism have shown that no government can force people to think in a certain way, that is up to the individual.

 

11084971_798834196852730_700585217_n.jpg

Image Courtesy Of: https://mulpix.com/post/953431286256553315.html
Advertisements

Sports and Society: Religious and Ethnic Identities Come to the Fore in Turkish Stadiums

6 Comments

In the past couple of weeks Turkish stadiums have become the venue of choice for the airing of political views. The tensions of the final weeks of the football season have only served to heighten tensions already existing in both sport and society. What is most interesting, however, that in the past weeks two groups within Turkish society—seemingly at odds with one another—have both been targeted in stadiums: Kurds and secular Turks. In the context of the stadium it is possible to see that these groups may have more in common than outside observers may initially believe.

On 17 April 2016, Altay, from Western Turkey’s liberal port city of Izmir that sees itself as representing the progressive idealism of Turkey’s founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, faced Erzurum Büyükşehir Belediyespor in eastern Turkey in a third tier soccer match. After the first half, which ended 1-1, the Altay team claims that their players were attacked on the way to the locker rooms; allegedly one man brandished a knife. Before the match, fans in Erzurum chanted “Gavur Izmir”, or “Infidel Izmir” the (not-so-flattering) nickname of Turkey’s most cosmopolitan city, the old Smyrna. One Altay administrator claimed they feared for their lives. A local newspaper from Erzurum responded to these claims, noting all of the heroic acts that Erzurumians have done over the course of Turkish history including taking Greek soldiers hostage after the Greek invasion of Izmir. The local paper, Yeni Akit, also claims that the Izmir team’s fans called those in Erzurum “terrorists” and demanded an apology from Turkish football pundits who disparaged the city for the “infidel” chants. We may never know what truly happened in the stadium but it points to an important ideological division within Turkey that is not insignificant, one that I will return to in a moment.

One week later, on 24 April, 2016, MKE Ankaragücü faced the Kurdish side Amedspor in the Turkish capital in another third tier soccer match. After Amedspor scored to go up 2-1 in the 85th minute, some of the Kurdish team’s executives celebrated, prompting a vicious attack by Ankaragücü’s executives that was caught on video. In the end injuries ranged from broken noses to concussions and several people–including the chairman of the Ankara team—were taken in for questioning by police. The Ankaragücü team, in their second response to the violence, note that when their team played in Diyarbakir their fans were stoned and had to witness the whistling down of the Turkish national anthem; they further note that the Amedspor executives broke an unspoken rule. Celebrating like a fan in the executive seats is unacceptable.

ankaragucu-amedspor-macindaki-olaylarla-ilgili-5-gozalti,4yTQROBLeEe-4h5Aw19NAQ

Image Courtesy of: http://www.aljazeera.com.tr/haber/amedspor-yoneticilerine-saldiri-kamerada

While we will never know the full details of either of these incidents because we can only hear versions of the events from either side, it shows that the divisions within society are being replicated—and amplified—in the stadium.

On Tuesday, 26 April 2016, the issue of religion again came to the fore as Turkey’s Speaker of Parliament, Ismail Kahraman, said Turkey needed a religious constitution. This provoked small scale protests from many who fear the country’s long-standing secularism is under threat. The response, once again, came from the stands. On 30 April, 2016, Besiktas fans in the brand new Vodafone Arena chanted “Turkey is secular and will remain secular” during their match with Kayserispor, while fans of Fenerbahçe echoed the same sentiments during their match that weekend.

As one local commentator noted, this kind of tension—often culminating in violence—has been present in Turkish football for the past thirty-five years. Just in the last month there have been incidents at major matches in Karabük and Trabzon, where a fan assaulted the referee. Smaller matches have also been affected; Police had to fire warning shots to disperse fans at an amateur match.

,w9WVT_8XlUKmpWg6YKDHkA

In Karabuk. Image Courtesy Of: http://www.ntv.com.tr/galeri/spor/karabukte-saha-karisti,_E7O2BsgHk-PTv6L-r6EQg/w9WVT_8XlUKmpWg6YKDHkA?_sgm_campaign=scn_b80478c001c4e000&_sgm_source=d8ce4efc-201b-4f1e-8f4e-fe8bfabe8442&_sgm_action=click

What is different in the present, however, is that there is also violence—as we saw in Erzurum and Ankara—that is not just wanton aggression precipitated by fan anger at referees or at one another. Instead, we see violence with political undertones, based instead on religious and ethnic identities. More importantly, we see that two of the groups that have become victims of this violence—those perceived to be secular and those who are Kurdish—have for many years been on opposite sides of the Turkish political world; the divide between western and eastern Turkey manifested itself with secular Turks from “modern” western Turkey disdaining Kurds from “backward” eastern Turkey. The current marginalization of both groups within Turkish society, however, also offers a unique opportunity for them to come together in ways that were not possible in the past.

Amedspor Upsets Bursaspor On The Field While Ethnic Tensions are Highlighted Through Football

Leave a comment

The Bursapor-Amedspor Turkish Cup match on 31 January, 2016 confirmed what many in Turkey feared. Amedspor’s surprising upset victory—1-2 to take them into the quarterfinal—was the biggest shock. What happened off the field, however, was sadly all too predictable.

While the away fans of Amedspor were not allowed into the stadium due to security concerns the match was still televised live on ATV, a channel known to be close to the ruling AKP government. During and after the match, fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with announcer Gökhan Telkenar. Among other things, he refused to refer to the Amedspor team by name. Instead, he called them “onlar”, or “them in Turkish”. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior by the employee of a national TV Channel only served to exacerbate the divide between Kurds and Turks that has recently been re-emphasized by the government, prompting some commentators to even speak of civil war.

As with most things in Turkish football, however, the entire situation was not without irony. An Tweet by Amedspor asked the rhetorical question “Bursa Takımında Türkiyeden sadece 2oyuncu var. Gerisi hepsi yabancı.

Bizde Türkiyenin her halkından oyuncu var.
Ama biz hainiz Bursa milli”/”On the Bursa team there are only two players from Turkey. Everyone else is foreign. On our team we have players from every group [of people] in Turkey. But we are the traitors and Bursa are national[ist]”. A cursory look at the line-up card confirms Amedspor’s assertions—at least as regards the starting XI. Bursaspor’s lineup boasted two Turks—Goalkeeper Mert Gunok and Forward Sercan Yildirim—while everyone else was non-Turkish: there was a Cameroonian, a Japanese, a Senegalese, an Australian, a Hungarian, a Slovak, and two Czechs. By contrast, third-tier Amedspor had a lineup of all Turkish nationals.

The founder of Amedspor’s fan group, Barikat, Bilal Akkalu had spoken before the match explaining the troubles his team faces during away matches. The home teams treat Amedspor as if they, in Mr. Akkalu’s words, “come from another country”. The divisive policies of the AKP government are swiftly manifesting themselves in Turkey’s most popular sport, football. Where the sport could once unite the country—such as during Galatasaray’s run to the 2000 UEFA Cup and Turkey’s international success during the 2002 World Cup and 2008 European Championships—the sport (with the aid of the government) is now becoming a forum for airing political differences predicated on ethnic lines. The process started during last year’s Turkish cup and, unfortunately, seems to be continuing. Let us hope that whichever team (and fans) Amedspor face in the quarterfinal round are more cognizant of the influence that football holds over the general populace. If sport can unite—rather than divide—let it be shown in the next round of matches. Otherwise, it will certainly be a difficult road ahead for both Amedspor and the Turkish nation.

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

Leave a comment

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.

30998334

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.

22434065

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

 

Screenshot_3

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.

article-2520210-19EF2A8800000578-255_634x419 article-2520210-19EAA87300000578-175_634x689

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.

article-2520210-19F5A46A00000578-984_634x335 21133519

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.

Sports and Separatism: The Dark Side of Football in Southeast Turkey

3 Comments

Football, as a sport and a culture, is powerful. It can bring people from all walks of life, from all nationalities, together. Its power is fluid, it is exciting, and it is always changing. That’s what makes it beautiful. But that is also what makes it so very dangerous. As much as it can bring people together it can also tear people apart in the most savage of ways. For those who don’t know, a little background reading on Zvonimir Boban’s “kick that started the Yugoslav Wars in Maksimir Stadium” might be useful in the context of understanding this article:

Duke University has an interesting page here: http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/category/yugoslavia-2/

The Daily Mail’s article on a recent Serbia Vs. Croatia International: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2297037/Croatia-Serbia-clash-time-Yugoslav-war-1-500-police-deployed-despite-ban-away-fans.html

boban-229x300

 

article-2297037-18D50C2A000005DC-680_634x385

 

Images Courtesy of: http://sites.duke.edu/wcwp/category/yugoslavia-2/ And http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-2297037/Croatia-Serbia-clash-time-Yugoslav-war-1-500-police-deployed-despite-ban-away-fans.html

One need not go back to the break up of the Yugoslavia to see such displays, in fact we can even stay in the Balkans. The abandoned Serbia-Albania international in Belgrade on October 14 2014 served as yet another reminder of football’s ability to uncover and exacerbate the differences in divided societies.

It is because of the precedence such events provide that I am deeply scared about recent developments in Turkish football. Lets start with Gençlerbirliği’s shrewd chairman Ilhan Cavcav, the man who discovered former Chelsea and Real Madrid man Geremi Nijitap. On December 26 2014 Mr. Cavcav made a “bold” (in his own words) announcement, suggesting that the Turkish National Anthem should be forbidden before domestic matches and that it should only be played before international matches. For me—both as an American and a Turk—his announcement is anathema. After all, what would a baseball game be without the Star Spangled Banner? In America, of course, it is part of the pageantry. In Turkey it is, admittedly, different. As I outlined in my thesis, the national anthem came to be sung in Turkish stadia as a reaction to the Kurdish crisis in the mid 1990s when violent clashes between the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) and Turkish Army were at their height in the country’s southeast. And now Mr. Cavcav’s call stems from unfortunate developments in the same region of Turkey twenty years later.

His main qualm with the singing of the national anthem is seemingly logical, especially given the Balkan precedent:

“Gazetede okudum: İstiklal Marşımız’a ıslıklar çalınmış. Bu milletin bir evladı olarak, bu millet için çalışan ve uğraşan bir sanayici olarak yarın bir gün bu olayların çoğalması kargaşalara sebebiyet verebilir. Bu nedenle sayın Başbakanımız’ın talimat vererek İstiklal Marşımız’ı lig maçlarında yasaklaması gerekir” diye konuştu.

“I read in the papers that our National Anthem was whistled down. As a son of this nation, as an industrialist working and struggling for this nation one day these events could proliferate and cause major chaos. Therefore our esteemed President should give an order and forbid the National Anthem at [domestic] league matches.”

His fear may be grounded—but running away is never the solution when the consequences are so grave, so obvious. His team Gençlerbirliği were drawn in Group H of the Turkish cup along with Giresunspor, Konyaspor, and—most notably—Cizrespor. Cizrespor is the only team from Turkey’s amateur league to make it to the group stages of the Turkish Cup, but how they got there has been a lesson in the geopolitics of a nation and its football.

 

I visited Cizre back in 2009 during quieter times and I have no doubt that the city I visited then is not the same city today. A city of now almost 100,000 people, it was an important gateway to both Anatolia and Mesopotamia during the Abbasid period of Islamic history, situated on the crossroads of both regions. Today the city is situated where the volatile borders of Turkey, Syria, and Iraq meet. Cizre has a long and distinguished history, from its foundation by Noah to being the site of Alexander the Great’s crossing of the Tigris in 331 BC. Sadly, now the city is best known for being the site of violent clashes between the PKK and the Sunni Muslim Huda-Par group, related to Turkish Hezbullah, who have been emboldened by the actions of ISIS across the border in Syria’s Kobane. Since Kobane fell under ISIS’ attack in early October Turkey’s Kurds, enraged by Turkey’s ambivalence towards—and reluctance to resist—ISIS, have taken matters into their own hands and are actively fighting the Islamist militants. As a result the area has fallen in to chaos (three people were killed in fresh clashes December 27), a chaos that threatens the integrity of the Turkish state.

So back to the football. Cizrespor started their Turkish cup adventure on a clear late summer day on September 3, 2014 at the Yüksekova Şehir Stadium against Yüksekova Belediyespor in the first qualifying round. As a match between two teams from neighboring southeastern provinces—both without any representatives in the professional leagues—it was bound to be a grudge match, a grind-it-out kind of match. Indeed it was a tough victory for Cizrespor, who took the match 2-1 despite some tension between players during the match. But these two teams were from the same under-developed regions of Turkey, there was no underlying tension stemming from off the field matters. It all went off without a hitch.

turkiye-kupasi-on-eleme-turu-IHA-20140903AW183904-4-t

Image Courtesy Of: http://haberciniz.biz/turkiye-kupasi-on-eleme-turu-3143353h.htm

Next up in the first round proper for Cizrespor was a trip to another neighboring province, this time Mardin, for a match against fellow Regional Amateur League side Mardinspor. No one knew what to expect, given that on February 2, 2014 a match between the same two sides (in Cizre) descended into violence following a 1-0 Cizrespor victory; 15 people—including one police officer—were wounded in the fighting that even a police presence of 700 could not prevent. But that match was an amateur match, no one heard too much about the events; such violence—even if not on that scale—happens often in tense amateur league encounters. But nothing untoward happened during their September 10 2014 encounter. After a pre-match meal where officials from both teams met to bury the hatchet and spread a message of peace and togetherness the match went off without any problems, even as Cizrespor humbled their hosts in a 1-4 victory. After the victory fans took to the streets in Cizre in celebration, escorting the team bus to the grounds with chants of “Cizrespor are the Champions!”. After all, the people of the region need all the cause for celebration they can get.

cizrespor-a-coskulu-karsilama-4765527

Image Courtesy of: http://www.milliyet.com.tr/cizrespor-a-coskulu-karsilama—1938698-skorerhaber/

 

In the second round of the Turkish Cup the competition goes national and opponents are no longer from the same region. Cizrespor’s opponents in this round on September 24, 2014 would be Aydınspor 1923 from the Aegean province of Aydın some 1500 kilometers away—in Turkey, that distance spans two different worlds. The players of Aydınspor 1923 would soon learn that. Despite having a side valued at more than 4 times that of Cizrespor’s (1,300,000 Euro to 245,000 Euro) Aydınspor 1923 conceded two goals in the first six minutes and went down 3-1 on their visit to Cizre. Anyone looking at the team’s values would raise an eyebrow at the result; after the match a few Aydınspor 1923 players told their tale.

Aydınspor’s thirty two year old journeyman defender Aytek Aşıkoğlu has seen a lot in his time. Born in Istanbul, his career started at neighborhood team Gaziosmanpaşaspor in 2002 before taking him to Adanaspor, Gaziantepspor, Elazığspor, Boluspor, Kayseri Erciyesspor, Çaykur Rizespor, Göztepe (Izmir), and finally Aydınspor 1923. The teams span Turkey’s geography: Istanbul to the Mediterranean, the southeast to the Black Sea, Central Anatolia to the Aegean coast. But I am sure that none of that could have prepared him for what he lived through in Cizre on that September day. His Twitter posts tell a dark story:

“Şükurler olsun TÜRKİYE CUMHURİYETİ VATANDAŞIYIM şükürler olsun ATATÜRK’ÜN EVLADIYIM”

“Thankfully I am a CITIZEN OF THE REPUBLIC OF TURKEY thankfully I AM A SON OF ATATÜRK”

“Bir tane Türk bayrağinın olmadığı, bizden başka kimsenin Türkçe konuşmadığı, İstiklal Marşımızı sadece bizim söyledigimiz bir yerde, Türkiye Kupası maçı oynadık. Tehditler içinde sözde stada girerken yediğimiz dayaklar arasında arama yapılmadan içeri alınan 5000 eli taşlı kişilerin içinde bazı arkadaşlarımızın haklı olarak oynamak istemediği, bazılarının ise korkudan elinin ayağının titrediği kupa maçı oynadık”

“In a place where there was not even one Turkish Flag, in a place where no one other than us spoke Turkish, in a place where only we sang our National Anthem, we played a Turkish Cup Match. We entered what was apparently a stadium among threats and beatings. In a place where 5000 people entered without any searches carrying sticks and stones in their hands, and where some of our friends rightfully didn’t want to play—where some where shaking from head to toe with fear—we played a cup match.”

“Kimse kusura bakmasın biz bugün burada kazansaydık maçtan sonra kimse sağ kalmazdi. Tek tesellim tekrardan ailemi görecek olmam”

“No one should think otherwise, if we had won here today no one would have come out OK. My only consolation is that I will see my family again.”

“Bazen nefes aldığına hayatta kaldığına şükredersin. İşte öyle bir gündü.”

“Sometimes in life you are thankful to even take a breath and still be living. This is one of those days”.

 

While his posts may be hyperbolic at times, his teammate Sezer Sezgin confirmed his reports via Twitter both before and after the match:

“Hoşgeldin yaptılar otobüsün camlarını indirdiler”

“They welcomed us by breaking the glass of our bus”

ByTm3SNIYAA2FIf.jpg-large

He went on to tag the Turkish Football Federation in a post to register his complaint with the situation:

“Bugün bizi futbol oynamamız için gönderdiğiniz stattan maçtan önce dayak ve tehdit, maçtan sonra da zırhlı araçlarla canımızı kurtardık”

“Today at the stadium you sent us into to play football there were pre-game beatings and threats, after the match we saved our lives with armored cars.”

ByToIhlIEAAGDlt

The Caption Reads: “Buda cikisimiz mac sonu… Zırhlı aracın icinde … Tek sucumuz futbol oynamak…” (“And this is us leaving after the match…inside an armored car…our only crime was playing football”).

Images Courtesy of: http://www.fanatik.com.tr/2014/09/24/aydinli-aytekten-tuyler-urperten-itiraflar-388069

 

Aydınspor’s coach Akif Başaran also confirmed the events implying that his team lost on purpose—during a dinner served by the Cizre Chamber of Commerce the night before the match they were told to lose. Meanwhile the team’s vice president Erdal Karakavukoğlu added hyperbolically that, “it would have been impossible for even Real Madrid to win that day in Cizre”. Coach Başaran’s statement is below:

“Futbolcularıma maçı oynamazsak stattan çıkamayacağımızı söyledim. Zorla sahaya çıktılar, 3-1 yenilip canlarını kurtardılar. 42 yıldır futbolun içindeyim, böyle şeyler yaşamadım. Otelden stada eskortsuz ve korumasız olarak gittik. Ortalıkta ne polis, ne asker vardı. İçeri girerken bir futbolcumuzun boğazını sıktılar, bir diğerine tekme attılar. Doğru düzgün ısınmaya bile çıkamadık. Her şey kendiliğinden gelişti. Teknik direktör olarak oyuncuma yenilmesini söylemem mümkün değil. Ancak o anki psikolojisini anlamak lazım. Bu atmosferde hangi takım kazanmak için oynar? Nitekim ilk 7 dakikada 2 gol yedik tansiyon bir anda düştü, herkes rahatladı.”

“I told my players that if we don’t play we won’t be able to get out of the stadium. They went out and played under duress and lost 3-1 to save their lives. I have been in football for 42 years and have never lived through anything like this. We went from the hotel to the stadium with no escorts or protection; there were no police or soldiers anywhere. When we entered they grabbed the throat of one of my players and kicked another. We couldn’t even warm-up properly. Everything happened on by itself. As a coach it is impossible for me to tell my players to lose. But you have to understand the psychology at that moment. What team can play to win in such an atmosphere? Then we conceded two goals in the first seven [sic] minutes and the tension fell suddenly, everyone relaxed.”

On the Cizrespor side club spokesman İdris Bingöl rejected Aytek Aşıkoğlu’s Tweets. He responded to Fanatik.com.tr’s questions by saying:

“Aytek Aşıkoğlu’nun yazdıkları gerçeği yansıtmıyor. Cizre, futbol sevdalısı bir ilçedir. Böyle suçlamaların yapılmasının sebebi Kürt ili olmamız. Cizrespor, halkımızın ve Cizreli iş adamlarının sayesinde ayakta duran bir kulüp. Takımımız, ilçemizdeki gençlerin spor yapmasını teşvik ediyor. Gençlerimizi kahve köşelerinde oturmaktan kurtarıp spora yönlendirmeye çalışıyoruz…Maça çakmak, su şişesi, hatta poşet bile sokulmadı. Eli taşları kişilerin stada alındığı iddiası kesinlikle doğru değil. Kürt ili olduğumuz için böyle şeyler söyleniyor. Takımımızda 2. Lig ve 1. Lig tecrübesi bulunan iyi oyuncularımız var. Bugün de çok iyi oynadık ve kazandık. Sanırım Aydınsporlular amatör bir takıma yenilmeyi kaldıramadığı için böyle sözler sarf etti. Biz her şeye rağmen maçtan sonra Aydınspor’la yemek yedik ve onları öyle yolcu ettik” diye konuştu.

“What Aytek Aşıkoğlu wrote doesn’t reflect reality. Cizre is a district that loves football. The reason such allegations are being made is that we are a Kurdish province. Cizrespor exists because of the support of its people and Cizre’s businessmen. Our team encourages the youth in our district to play sports. We are trying to save our youth from sitting in coffee houses by directing them to sports instead…No lighters, water bottles, or even plastic bags where allowed into the stadium. The claim that people with stones in their hands were allowed into the stadium is certainly untrue. Things like this are being said because we are a Kurdish province. We have good players with first and second division experience on our team, and today we played very well and won. I think that Aydınspor[‘s players] are saying these types of things because they can’t accept having lost to an amateur team. Despite everything we ate a meal with Aydınspor after the match and sent them off.”

While I would like to believe Mr. Bingöl the photos tweeted by Aydınspor’s players tell a different story. While I would like to fault Aydınspor’s coach for bringing the game into disrepute—and implying that his side lost on purpose—I can’t imagine being a footballer playing in such an atmosphere either. But all of this took place in the second round of the Turkish cup, between an amateur side from southeast Turkey and a relatively unsupported second division team from Aegean Turkey. Again, not too many people—aside from football maniacs like me—heard of the events and life went on.

 

The next month, on October 28, 2014, Cizrespor hosted Göztepe (Izmir), one of Turkey’s most famous clubs and one with an international fan base. When the draw was made I was in London with my friend, himself a Göztepe fan from childhood, and told me with a straight face that “there is no way we will win in Cizre”. Well if he knew it, then why did the Turkish football federation not move the match to another city? It’s a good question—the kind that makes one ask “Do they want trouble?” We will never know that much, but after Göztepe’s 2-0 loss only 57 words were used in the match summary by Fanatik.com.tr—with no mention of the extracurricular events that took place…just the fact that fans were sitting on the stadium’s roof.

But it could never be covered up. As one of Turkey’s oldest—and biggest—clubs, any match involving Göztepe would become national news. And it did. Even CNN Turk—themselves famous for showing a penguin documentary during the Gezi protests—picked up the story. Unlike Aydınspor 1923, Göztepe got a police escort from the airport to the stadium. But the three armored busses and five armored cars couldn’t prevent the team bus from being stoned en route.

 

10750170_761729037233385_7547925906384748824_o

Image Courtesy of: http://www.goztepeliler.com/haber-2326-Dun-Cizrede-Kaybedilmek-Uzere-Olan-Bir-Vatan-Oldugunu-Gordum.html#

 

Unlike Aydınspor 1923, Göztepe was able to come out for warm-ups…under a rain of foreign objects hurled from the stands. It took Cizrespor president Salih Sefinç to calm the irate fans down himself. After the events during and after the Aydınspor 1923 match Cizrespor arranged for 1000 scarves with “Cizrespor-Göztepe” written on them to be put on the seats of the stadium in a bid to create a friendship between the clubs…the majority of these scarves were thrown onto the pitch. No one wanted them. And just like during the Aydınspor 1923 match, the Turkish National Anthem was whistled down:

In the 63rd minute Göztepe tried to take a corner kick and a tear gas bomb was thrown onto the pitch along with fireworks. The referee had to take the teams to the center of the field while the police tried to calm the situation down—how much they succeeded is questionable; the governors of Şırnak Province and Cizre District left early due to security concerns. After the final whistle hundreds of Cizrespor supporters staged a pitch invasion while their players helped their Göztepe counterparts to the locker rooms.

fft81_mf2522120

 

Image Courtesy Of: http://www.radikal.com.tr/spor/cizrespor_goztepe_macinda_yuzlerce_taraftar_sahaya_girdi-1221882

 

After the match an anonymous Göztepe player wrote his version of the events on one of Göztepe’s fan sites Goztepeliler.com, which was subsequently picked up by Turkish Eurosport. The title he chose, “Yesterday I saw that what was lost in Cizre was a country [more than a match]”, spoke volumes and became truly national news. I have attempted to translate some excerpts below:

 

“Dün oynadığımız Cizrespor – Göztepe Maçında, bir Maç’dan ziyade kaybedilenlerin çok daha fazla olduğunu gördük.. 

TFF’nin Ziraat TÜRKİYE Kupası adı verilen oragnizasyonda, kendi vatan ve topraklarımızda, zırhlı araçlar ve Toma’lar eşliğinde stada güclükle gelebiliyoruz.. Yol boyunca Takımımızı taşıyan Polis Araçlarına taşlar ve patlayıcı maddeler atılıyor.

Isınmak için sahaya çıkarken üzerimize atılan yabancı maddeler (Taş, Kremit, ses bombaları, havai fişekler) ve sahada kim oldukları belli olmayan onlarca insan, gerek ısınırken gerekse maç boyu sürekli tehditler savuran ama hiçbir şekilde sahaya girme izni olmayan sözde görevliler..

Armasından Türk Bayrağını çıkarmış olan Cizrespor Maçı öncesi atılan Terör örgütü sloganları ve hem Stad çalışanları hemde ordaki Cizreliler tarafından sabote edilen (okunmayan) Istiklal Marşımız..

Bütün bu olanları bilen gören ve protokolden sessizce izleyen, herşey cok normalmış gibi davranan, sözde devletimizin bir Valisi..

Maç boyunca tribünlerden ve tribünlerin çatısından sahaya atılan taşların ve yabancı maddelerin, Maç oynanırken sürekli sahaya giren görevliler tarafından toplanmaya çalışılması ve hakeminde buna sessiz kalması. Maçı uzatmaya taşımamak için verilen bir Penaltı ve hakeme ”neden Penaltı verdin” diye sorulduğunda, bende bilmiyorum diye alınan cevap.

Maç’dan önce ve Maç boyunca atılan tezahüratlarda bölücük ve terör örgütü propagandası olmasına rağmen hiçbir şekilde müdahale edilmemesi ”burası Kürdistan burdan cıkış yok” sesleri ve bunlar görülmesin, duyulmasın, bilinmesin diye Maçın Canlı yayınlanmak istenmemesi ve Canlı yayınlanmasına engel olunması..

Türkiye Futbol Federasyonu bunların hesabını kime ve nasıl verecek?

Dün Cizrede kaybedilen sadece bir Maç değildi.

Dün Cizrede kaybedilmek üzere olan bir vatan olduğunu gördüm, devletin hiçbir şekilde etkisi olmadığı bir bölgede vatanını korumak isteyen koca yürekli Polis ve Askerlerin olduğunu gördüm, o şartlarda Terör yuvası dönmüş mahallelerde kalbinde Türk Bayrağı taşıyan ve nöbet tutan Adam gibi Adamlar gördüm..

”Siz bizi düşünmeyin, sadece bu Maç’ı bizim için kazanın” diyen o Polislerimiz, hakkınızı helal edin..

 

“Yesterday’s Cizrespor-Göztepe match showed us that what was lost was much more than a match.

In an event the Turkish Football Federation calls the Ziraat TURKISH Cup we were barely able to make it to the stadium escorted by armored cars and riot control vehicles, in our own country and our own lands. All the way to the stadium the Police vehicles carrying our team were met with rocks and explosive materials.

We saw foreign objects (rocks, bricks, sound bombs, fireworks) thrown at us when we came out for warm ups and the unidentified tens of people on the field, those threatening us before and during the match, but who had no right to enter the field and were supposedly working [for the team]…

We saw a Cizrespor who took the Turkish Flag off of their jersey [NOTE: this is true, I have a Cizrespor jersey from my visit which has the Turkish Flag on it, the team’s current shirts do not have it] and the terrorist slogans being yelled, we saw our National Anthem sabotaged by the Cizre fans and stadium workers…. 

We saw a supposed governor from our country who also saw and knew all of these things but who chose to watch in silence and act as if everything was normal.

We saw the stones and objects being thrown from the stands before and during the match, we saw the fans continuously attempting to enter the field and the referee remaining silent. In order to not take the match to extra time a penalty was given and when the referee was asked ‘Why did you give that penalty?’ his answer was I don’t know either… 

We saw the separatist and terrorist propaganda that was being yelled from the stands before and during the match that was not stopped at all; so that the sounds of “This is Kurdistan there is no way out” could not be heard, could not be seen, could not be known, the match was not recorded live…

How will the Turkish Football Federation answer this? 

What was lost yesterday in Cizre was not just a match. 

I saw that what was lost yesterday was a country. I saw an area where the state has no power whatsoever and where brave Police and Soldiers want to protect the state. I saw real men who carry the Turkish Flag in their hearts standing watch in neighborhoods that have become havens of terror.

Bless those Police who said “Don’t worry about us, just win this match for us”.

 

 

 

For anyone who has love for a country this is indeed a grizzly account of stadium terror in its worst form. Yet no one knows, as the player said the game was not televised live (when many such matches are). And as he also said, the match was not stopped despite the materials raining onto the field. In any other context, in any other place, the match most likely would have been abandoned. But it wasn’t.

 

Cizrespor’s officials responded to these allegations as well. President Salih Sefinç’s statement is below:

 

“28 Ekim 2014 tarihinde Türkiye’nin köklü kulüplerinden bir tanesi olan Göztepe ile Cizre’de bu güzel coğrafyada, güzel bir futbol müsabakası yaptık. Bana göre fair-play içerisinde geçen, karşı takımın yöneticileri ve futbolcuları ile Cizresporlu futbolcular ve yöneticileri açısından kardeşçe geçen bir müsabaka olmuştur. Derbi maçlarında çıkan olayların yüzde beşi kadar olayların yaşanmamasına rağmen bazı medya kuruluşu ve gazetelere bakıldığında kendilerine yakışmayan ve Cizre’yi hedef alan üsluplarla haber yazıldığı görülmüştür. Biz bu yazılanları gerçekten tasvip etmiyoruz. Cizrespor Yönetim Kurulu olarak spor anlamında doğudan batıya uzanan bir köprü olmak istiyoruz. İstanbul’daki bir takımımız Cizre’ye ya da Bursa’ya gidip güzel güzel futbolunu oynayacak. Bursa da gelip burada oynayacak. Bunun güzelliğini ancak bu şekilde yaşayabileceğiz. Batıdaki Türk kardeşlerimiz ile Doğuda yaşayan Kürt kardeşlerimiz arasında provokatörlük yapan ya da güzel olmayan, kendi üsluplarına yakışmayan şekilde yazı yazmak bence basın yayın kurallarına aykırı olan şeylerdir. Biz bunları tasvip etmiyor ve buna karşı olduğumuzu belirtmek istiyoruz”

“In Cizre on October 28, 2014 we played a beautiful football match in this beautiful geography with one of Turkish football’s most storied clubs, Göztepe. For me this match was played with Fair-Play and brotherhood between the Cizrespor players and officials and our opponent’s players and officials. Despite the fact that less than five percent of the things that happen in derby matches happened here some media outlets and papers wrote stories unbecoming of them and that target Cizre. We really don’t approve of these lies. As the Cizrespor Board of Directors we want to be a sporting bridge stretching from the east to the west. One of our teams from Istanbul can come to Cizre or Bursa and play football comfortably. Bursa will come and play here too. We can only realize this beautiful [thing] this way. I think that writing provocative things about our Turkish brothers in the west and our Kurdish brothers in the east, and writing unbecoming stories, is a violation of press and media rules. We do not approve of these things and want to make it clear that we are against them.”

 

Some of Mr. Sefinç’s comments are spot on. Sports should serve as a bridge between east and west, between Kurds and Turks, between under-developed and developed parts of nations. But not everyone thinks this way. Mr. Sefinç himself had to calm down his rowdy fans, so perhaps he would be better served to work on his own fans and community instead of targeting news outlets in a manner that only serves to fan the flames of mutual accusations.

 

 

So now we come to December 9, 2014 when Ilhan Cavcav’s Gençlerbirliği visited Cizre for their Turkish Cup group stage match. The team was again taken by armored car to the stadium. In an ironic coincidence, these were the same armored busses that took the Kurdish Peshmerga fighters to Kobane in their fight against ISIS. This is, after all, a team from the Turkish top flight—their safety must be ensured!

 

27008617 27008603

Images Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/27738366.asp#

 

The stadium was empty due to a stadium closure stemming from the events outlined above but…it didn’t change much. The Cizrespor fans watched from a concrete apartment block towering over the small stadium, yelling slogans for Kobane and even flying the flag of Kurdish Northern Iraq. And throughout the match firecrackers and fireworks were thrown onto the pitch.

27018455 27018557

27022092 27022020

 

Images Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/27740633.asp# And http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/27738366.asp#

 

The aftermath of Gençlerbirliği’s victory was predictable: pitched battles between Cizrespor’s citizens (I don’t know how many are “fans”) and the police. The Gençlerbirliği team were stranded in the stadium for almost an hour, while nearby schools had to be evacuated when children were affected by the tear gas drowning the streets.

 

27022083 27022082

Images Courtesy of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/spor/futbol/27740633.asp#

 

 

The story of five matches in four months truly tells the story of a Turkey threatened to be ripped apart by the chaos engulfing its neighbors. It was enough for columnist Zafer Büyükavcı of the sports daily Fanatik to write a warning concerning these events: “Gentlemen are you aware: The country is slipping through our fingers.” Unfortunately his warning fell on deaf ears.

 

 

On December 24, 2014, Turkish giants Galatasaray visited the heart of Turkey’s Kurdish southeast, Diyarbakır, to face Diyarbakır Büyükşehir Belediyespor in their Turkish Cup match-up. It shouldn’t have been an issue—Galatasaray voluntarily played the 2000 Turkish Cup Final in Diyarbakır and in my thesis I mentioned that PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan asked for a TV set in his prison cell to watch the 2000 UEFA Cup Final between Galatasaray and Arsenal since he is a Galatasaray fan. Galatasaray even chose to go to the hotel without an escort—Vice President Abdürrahim Albayrak said “The people’s team will go to the hotel among the people.”

 

Nothing happened around the hotel, until match day when a group of 10-15 people stoned the Galatasaray bus. Still, it wasn’t enough to ruin the friendly atmosphere. According to the Cumhuriyet article the differences couldn’t overcome a mutual distaste for industrial football, and signs were written in both languages:

 

“Kürdistan’da spor yarış değil kardeşliktir, Futbol sahada güzel borsada değil. TOKİ sizin stat bizim.”

 “In Kurdistan sports aren’t a race they’re brotherhood. Football is good on the field not on the stock market. TOKI [NOTE: Turkey’s state run housing administration which builds most stadiums—see the construction and corruption scandals] your stadium is ours.”

 

But still the Turkish-Kurdish problem proved inescapable and the bad apples were out there at the match. Most fans were yelling for “Diyarbakırspor”—but the from the younger fans came “Amedspor” (the Kurdish and Syriac name of the city). In the 88th minute the match was stopped when a stone was thrown at one of the linesmen. And the fans still whistled down the national anthem. And the fans still yelled support for Kobane. And the Diyarbakır Büyüksehir Belediyespor President Ihsan Avcı—despite his expressing regret at the stonings–still said the team came out to not be “Diyarbakır’s” team but “Kurdistan’s” team: The people’s team.

 

The situation is fluid. But it is also dangerous, and that must be kept in mind. Torku Konyaspor, ahead of their upcoming match in Cizre, asked for it to be moved in the wake of the recent violence in Cizre (both related to sports and unrelated to sports). According to the Turkish Football Federation’s website there has been no change, the match will take place at 11:30am local time at the Cizre stadium. Regardless of what happens in relation to football I hope that the government realizes that what is happening in southeast Turkey today is very dangerous for Turkey’s future going into the New Year. They need only look west to the Balkans for an example of what could happen.

 

A few pictures of the dusty Cizre Sehir Stadium taken during my visit in May 2009:

DSCN1675 DSCN1672 DSCN1674 DSCN1673