I am not someone interested in football. My only relation to football is Amedspor, the flagship team of Diyarbakır in southeast Turkey. Like many Kurds, what has happened to Amedspor in the last three years has increased my interest in football. These days, I follow all their matches.
Amedspor has been active since 1990s. Its name were changed several times. In 2015, its name became Amedspor, after the Kurdish name of Diyarbakır, Amed.
After this name change, the sports club experienced all sorts of discrimination and even racism. While those who see the football pitch as a battlefield rather than a sports arena, have never been penalised for their behaviour against the team, Amedspor has had to pay fines for its supporters chanting for peace.
The team’s football field has been closed several times for security reasons and during away matches, rival supporters shamelessly welcome Amedspor with military salutes and chant nationalist slogans.
Amedspor managers have been beaten. In a match last year, in the western province of Bursa, the team was welcomed by people shouting “this is Turkey, there is no way out!”. In another match in Ankara, managers and players were attacked by supporters of Ankaragücü.
The attackers included the chairman of Ankaragücü, the team’s senior members and people sitting on the benches. Only a few lawsuits were launched against those attacks to save face, that is all.
What happened to Deniz Naki, one Amedspor’s players, is altogether another story. Naki, born in the eastern province of Dersim was penalised for his tattoo reading “azadi” – freedom in Kurdish. He was sentenced to one year, six months and 22 days in prison for his social media posts on charges of making propaganda for a terrorist organisation. Eventually, he had to leave Turkey and he was even attacked by a Turkish racist crowd in Germany, where he settled.
Fines rained down on Amedspor every month. When the city’s elected mayor was replaced by someone appointed by the Turkish government, the new mayor also joined those efforts. He cut the municipality’s financial support to Amedspor and asked the club to change its name in return for resuming the subsidy.
Nurullah Edemen, the chairman of Amedspor and other team officials were prosecuted in criminal courts. Last week, before a match between Amedspor and Sakaryasapor in the west of the country, a 20-minute video showing military operations was broadcast before the match. Sakaryaspor supporters chanted racist slogans during the match and Amedspor players were attacked after the game in their changing room.
Turkish anti-riot police officers clash with Amedspor fans on May 16, 2017 after Amedspor lost the Turkish Super Lig white group semi-final second leg football match against Erzurum BB at Diyarbakir Stadium. / AFP PHOTO / IIyas Akengin
Footages shows that Turkish security forces did nothing to protect the Amedspor players. “What we experienced, has nothing to do with the ethical principles of sports,” Edemen said afterwards.
“The purpose is that: We look at you in a different way and we want to take revenge,” Edemen said.