News / Europe

Soccer Fans Increasingly on Front Line of Turkey's Protests

Besiktas fans throw plastic chairs onto the pitch during the Turkish Super League derby soccer match between Besiktas and Galatasaray at Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul September 22, 2013.
Besiktas fans throw plastic chairs onto the pitch during the Turkish Super League derby soccer match between Besiktas and Galatasaray at Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul September 22, 2013.
Dorian Jones
Since the mass anti-government demonstrations in Turkey earlier this year, soccer fans have been playing an increasingly prominent role in the country's political protests.  But the government has warned it will stamp out political dissent in the stadiums.

It might sound like a soccer game, but its the new sound of political protest in Turkey. Soccer supporters chant club slogans, followed by anti-government chants.
The latest anti-government protests earlier this month were centered in Istanbul’s Kadikoy district on the city’s Asian side, home to Fenerbahce football club. Many of the protestors are avid supporters of the country's soccer teams, wearing their clubs' shirts to the protests.

Protesting supporters see no contradiction between football and protest.

When the subject is our homeland, the rest is not important; we are conscious of this, one protester said.  Winning football cups is temporary, but our country cannot fall into this situation: we are fighting for the future of our country. If we don't get together now, when else can we come together?
From the start, fans of Istanbul’s three main soccer teams have been at the forefront of the protests. But a special group of fans -- supporters Istanbul’s Besiktas club, called the Carsi -- became the face of the unrest.
At the peak of anti-government protests in June, the Carsi laid siege to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Istanbul office, which is housed in a former Ottoman Palace on the Bosphorus waterway and just a stone’s throw away from the heartland of the Besiktas supporters. Such activities quickly drew the attention of the police. In an unprecedented move, 20 leading members of the Carsi group were charged under the country’s anti-organized crime law.

That means the case is being tried in a special court with special rules, according to lawyer Nazif Koray, who represents some of the fans and is also a Besiktas supporter.

"They are talking about 20 years of penalties, this is a really serious. And these courts have very special authorities. We still could not see, for example, the evidences, because this is banned, but you cannot do this in normal courts. Because of this, we still don't know the whole case. This was a warning to all Besiktas supporters," said Koray.

Government in damage control mode

Ahead of the new soccer season, the government tried to take steps to purge the stadiums of political ferment.
The sports ministry blitzed TV with advertisements warning parents of the dangers of political activism.  The ads, which carried the message that such activism is a slippery slope leading to terrorism, closed with the image of a suicide bomber. Meanwhile, a ban on racist slogans in sports stadiums has been extended to political chants.
But observers warn that the crackdown appears, if anything, only to be hardening attitudes. Supporters of the football clubs across the country routinely shout protest chants at the 34th minute of games -- 34 being the car registration number of Istanbul. TV channels quickly mute the sound of the protests, in compliance with state regulations.
The unrest appears to be achieving something that most sports commentators had thought impossible, says journalist Yasmin Congar, who writes on Turkish affairs: it is breaking down, albeit temporally, the fierce rivalry, bordering on hatred, between Istanbul’s rival fans.

"There is no love lost between these Istanbul teams and supporters. But these Gezi park protests brought them together. You could see Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Galastasray fans marching arm in arm, helping each other against police. There is new energy, solidarity, along the lines of soccer clubs. Watching that, the government has become very wary of what the fans could do," stated Congar.

Analysts said the role of soccer fans in the protests has become quite personal for Prime Minister Erdogan, himself a former semi-professional footballer who always wears the local team’s scarf at political rallies and, until now, considered the game his political domain.

The country’s stadiums now seem destined to become venues for a battle of wills between fans and the government.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs