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Turkish Soccer Fans Boo Moment of Silence for Paris Victims

  • Dorian Jones

Turkey's players observe a minute of silence for the victims of the Paris attacks before their soccer match Nov. 17, 2015, against Greece in Istanbul.

Turkey's players observe a minute of silence for the victims of the Paris attacks before their soccer match Nov. 17, 2015, against Greece in Istanbul.

Booing and chants were reportedly heard at a soccer game Tuesday in Istanbul during a pre-match moment of silence for the victims of last week’s Paris attacks.

Thousands of Turkish soccer fans at a match between their national team and that of Greece drowned out the memorial with jeers and chants that included "Allahu Akbar," which means "God is great.”

After the game, the Turkish team's manager, Fatih Terim, slammed his own supporters.

“We're staging a moment of silence for people that have died,” he said. “Can't we be patient for one minute? When we go abroad, we're not able to explain this. It doesn't reflect well.”

This was not the first such incident. In October, soccer fans chanted pro-Islamic slogans during a moment of silence for the victims of twin terrorist bombings in the capital, Ankara. The attack was blamed on the Islamic State.

Semih Idiz, a political columnist for Turkey's Cumhuriyet newspaper, said the ugly scenes send a worrisome message about a dangerous minority of Turkish society.

"We do know there are people who actively support ISIS,” Idiz said. “We do know that there are large numbers of people who are actively anti-Western, or anything Western or Christian. It's inbred into their collective subconscious. You can go all the way back to the Crusades. This doesn't take long to surface in Turkey. But I don't think this [is] representative of the country."

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L) and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu watch the soccer match Nov. 17, 2015, between Turkey and Greece in Istanbul.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras (L) and Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu watch the soccer match Nov. 17, 2015, between Turkey and Greece in Istanbul.

A recent study by the German Marshall Fund of the United States has revealed powerful xenophobic sentiments within Turkish society, according to Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, coordinator of the research project.

"The majority of Turks thinks that as Western powers disintegrated the Ottoman Empire, they today want to disintegrate Turkey,” Unluhisarcikli said. “You will see that [a] majority of Turks believe Western states assist subversive organizations."

Such findings may explain why Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu did not comment on the Turkish soccer fans' behavior, though he attended both matches.

With Davutoglu counting on religious nationalist voters within his base, and fresh from this month's landslide general election victory, observers say he may want to turn a blind eye to such actions, however distasteful an image it projects to his Western partners.

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