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

US Firms Concerned About China's New Cyber Regulations

New rules would require technology companies doing business in financial sector to hand over their source code, adopt Chinese encryption algorithms More

WHO Focus on Ebola Shifts to Ending Outbreak

Focus to be less on building facilities and more on efforts to find infected people, manage their cases, engage with communities and ensure proper burials More

US Scientist Who Conceived of Groundbreaking Laser Technology Dies

Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, laser co-creator paved way for other scientific discoveries: CDs, eye surgery, metal cutters to name a few technologies that rely on lasers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Webi
X
January 29, 2015 9:58 AM
Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video As Ground Shifts, Obama Reviews Middle East Strategy

The death of Saudi Arabia’s king, the collapse of a U.S.-friendly government in Yemen and a problematic relationship with Israel’s leadership are presenting a new set of complications for the Obama administration and its Middle East policy. Not only is the U.S. leader dealing with adversaries in Iran, the Islamic State and al-Qaida, but he is now juggling trouble with traditional allies, as White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid