Turkey Kurds: The bitter politics of the football pitch

Amedspor supporters are lucky to be conscious their group play

If ethnic tensions in Turkey are reflected on the soccer pitch, then Amedspor and their Kurdish following are at the very centre of the field.

The club represents the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey, about 120km (Seventy five miles) from the Syrian border, with a population of about a million.

Mahsum Kazikci, a passionate member of Amedspor’s “Resistance” fan neighborhood, reflects the feelings shared by many fellow supporters when he speaks of the “racism” the club faces.

“There is a saying: ‘We can salvage by resisting’,” he says.

“When Turks grunt it, there’s is now not any downside, however Amedspor followers can’t even write it on a banner. Regardless of this we obtained’t ever replace our personality, our manner. We can continue on this course. We’re a felony fan club of a felony soccer group.”

The club turned into founded in 1990 however in 2014 they rebranded – “Amed” comes from the Kurdish name for Diyarbakir and its surrounding space.

This unique name is upright one of many reasons in the back of the pressures they beget confronted in newest years.

They are a lengthy manner from the tip of Turkish soccer – they’re now not even vying for the tip locations in the nation’s third highest division – however their games are continuously overshadowed by battle and difference between followers.

That is, when their followers are now not banned from attending suits.

I visited Diyarbakir on a sunny Spring Sunday when Amedspor had a residence sport in opposition to Sancaktepe, a bunch from Istanbul.

None of Amedspor’s supporters had been allowed in to belief. The explanation of the ban stemmed from a mysterious incident in early March.

Mansur Calar, an Amedspor player, turned into accused of slashing rival avid gamers with a razor blade all the method by a residence match with Sakaryaspor, a bunch from Adapazari, on 2 March.

Sakaryaspor stated their avid gamers had also been attacked as they inspected the pitch and again all the method by the warm-up.

After the game, on social media, avid gamers shared photos of their necks exhibiting scarring. Official-authorities media stores known as Calar a “terrorist with a razor blade”.

The Turkish Soccer Federation banned him for life and imposed an even of 25,000 lira (£3,500; $4,550). The penalty turned into later diminished to a 20-match suspension, however he restful faces a judicial proceeding.

Calar says he is the victim of “a political campaign in opposition to Amedspor”.

“It be nonsense,” he tells BBC Turkish. “How would possibly well additionally a soccer player perhaps converse a razor blade and hurt his opponent? It be not likely.

“It turned into admire a derby for us so sure, I turned into comparatively aggressive. But these scars had been made by my nails, now not a razor blade. I turned into taking guitar lessons and my nails had been comparatively lengthy.”

“Things I did now not enact went viral, out of alter on social media,” he says, blaming “false knowledge” for the bans imposed.

“After we toddle to an away sport, the rival group’s supporters chant racist slogans in opposition to us,” he provides.

“Right here’s onerous to opt psychologically. Amedspor are below gigantic pressure and we war below these conditions.”

It is miles never uncommon to be conscious grey wolves at Amedspor’s away suits – it’s an emblem adopted by Turkish nationalists. Massive Turkish flags are also waved and slogans reminiscent of “Kurds out, terrorists out” and “Right here’s Turkey, now not Kurdistan” are shouted.

In 2016, Amedspor executives had been beaten by a mob in the capital Ankara after a sport in opposition to Ankaragucu.

In 2017, Amedspor’s German-Kurdish player Deniz Naki, who had been beforehand convicted of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Birthday celebration (PKK) militant neighborhood, turned into banned for life and accused of “spreading separatist and ideological propaganda” by his social media posts.

Amedspor’s chairman, Ali Karakas, attracts a parallel between such reactions and the “polarised political atmosphere” in Turkey.

“Soccer is at the centre of politics in Turkey,” he says.

“Some circles use it as a manner to particular their political views, as it appeals to gargantuan and younger loads. And in this day’s Turkey, where politicians use a discriminatory tone, that is reflected on the pitch.”

Turkey has a lengthy history of war and violence courting back to the 1980s between the PKK and the Turkish security forces. About Forty,000 folks had been killed since the PKK took up arms in opposition to the Turkish suppose.

While the unique AKP authorities made efforts in direction of reconciliation after coming to vitality, the Kurdish-majority south-eastern space of Turkey loved most high quality about a years of peace, between 2012 and 2015.

Since 2015, Diyarbakir and its wider space had been at the centre of one other phase of city battle between Kurdish militants and security forces.

Between July 2015 and December 2016, Turkey imposed curfews and boosted security in the space, amid political turmoil. PKK militants declared self-rule in many areas, digging trenches and building barricades in the streets. Turkish security forces retaliated with military operations.

In step with the Place of work of the United Countries High Commissioner for Human Rights, some 2,000 folks had been killed in the battle and further than 355,000 folks had been internally displaced, escaping the combating on their doorstep.

In February 2016, as the violence in the space reached its height, Amedspor avid gamers walked on to the pitch preserving a gigantic banner that read “Youth Should always restful Not Die, They Should always restful Advance to The Match”.

With this slogan, followers and the group had been accused of “making terrorist propaganda” and they obtained a assortment of penalties. Supporters had been banned from over 60 away games over the previous three years. “Security reasons” had been given as justification.

Since then, quite deal of their slogans and banners had been deemed “ideological propaganda”.

After I visited followers at the Resistance club, they had been painting a banner in beef up of Mansur Calar ahead of their subsequent residence sport, in opposition to Sancaktepe.

It read: “Mansur Calar is now not alone”. They hoped to salvage it into the stands where they had been now not allowed.

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Loads of beget died and 1000’s had been displaced since a ceasefire broke down in July.

But attain match day, when I stepped within the abandoned stadium, neither banner nor followers had been anywhere to be seen.

Supporters later told me delegates of the soccer federation had prevented them from showing it.

“We’re felony followers of a felony club that play in the Turkish league,” says Mahsum Kazikci.

“We beef up our group the identical manner as other group followers enact. And we’ll continue to enact that.”

“What shall we enact?” asks fan club leader Ramazan Tugay. “If or now not it’s a ways against the law to assure: ‘Moms must now not bawl however belief their youngsters play soccer’, what shall we are saying? We’re attempting to shout for peace in soccer.”

Identical emotions are expressed by Erdal Akdemir, Amedspor’s Barikat (Barricade) fan club leader.

“We’re electorate of this nation however we also beget particular a language, custom and identification. We’re Kurds and we are Amedspor’s Kurdish followers. No one must ignore us,” he says.

The distance and its Kurdish identification are seen as “the major reasons for the hostile perspective” the club faces, consistent with Amedspor’s female fan club leader, Beritan Akyol.

She provides: “We’re ancient to the bans and punishments as these lands are deemed as a doubtlessly criminal space.”

This sentiment will most probably be reveal spherical the suits of Amedspor’s ladies’s group, who play in Turkey’s prime division. Followers who’re now not allowed to belief Amedspor’s male group’s residence games continuously rally in the back of the ladies’s group as a substitute.

Complaining about the heavy security presence in a match in opposition to the space’s other Kurdish-majority group, Hakkarigucu, Amedspor’s female avid gamers emerge from the altering rooms and are heard saying: “What is that this, are we going to a battle or a soccer ground?”

Finest about a days later, on 23 March, Amedspor put together to salvage permission for their followers to encourage an away sport in Istanbul, in opposition to Eyupspor. It is miles most high quality the 2d away match in over three years where Amedspor supporters are allowed into the stands.

There is again a heavy police presence, the protection forces are quite intimidating. But with the followers’ eyes on the pitch, and law enforcement officers’ eyes on the followers, chants are heard from the Amedspor stands in beef up of both groups, rallying in the back of a message of team spirit.

“Amedspor – Eyupspor! Hand in hand, arm in arm, both groups unite! Peace in the stadium! Hiya, pro-authorities media, enact you hear us? Abolish you be conscious us chanting for peace?”

Read extra:

Amedspor followers
Amedspor fan Mahsum Kazikci
Mansur Calar spoke to BBC Turkish in April
Amedspor chairman Ali Karakas

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