On 28 May, Turkish people celebrate the second year anniversary of Gezi Park protest. The protest, which lasted for approximately one month, was initiated by a group of environmentalists in Istanbul opposing the construction of a replica of Ottoman military barracks in Gezi Park.

The problem is that the Gezi Park is one of the few remaining green spaces in Istanbul. Rumors suggested that not only the replicas which would be built there, but also the shopping center. Various sources claimed that the decision to redevelop Gezi Park into a replica of Ottoman military barracks made too quickly, without public consultation, and without open discussion. This protest quickly spread to various cities in Turkey.

As time went by, this protest turned into anti-government protests. Various circle of society, ranging from students to civil society groups expressed their disappointment with Prime Minister’s (Reccep Tayyip Erdogan) political style. Actually, this protest was the culmination of public discontent with the government. After the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the 2002 General Election, Turkey’s economy and political situation were relatively stable. There were no turbulence until 2011. After a period of tranquility was ended, Erdogan began to show his negative side by applying authoritarian policies.

In 2013, Freedom House, a US based NGO issued a report on democracy index in Turkey.  According to the report, Turkey remained a “partly free country”. One of the reasons was because in 2012, Turkey imprisoned more journalists than any other country in the world. In addition, political opponents were oppressed and sometimes they were subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention.

Participation of Football Supporters Clubs In Gezi Park Protest

One of those groups which participated in the protest were football fans in Istanbul, especially the supporters of Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. Among those supporter groups, Beşiktaş fans were the most in numbers, followed by Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray. The main Galatasaray groups stayed away from the protest after joining in initially because their leaders are close to AKP and Erdogan. Nonetheless, it did not stop other Galatasaray supporters from showing up.

It is unimaginable that thousands of football fans from the rival clubs united by protests against the ruling government. They called their collaborative action as “Istanbul United”. Their action was documented in a movie called “Istanbul United”, which were directed by Olli Waldhauer and Farid Eslam.

A most famous group of Beşiktaş supporters called “Çarşı” was the largest in number and the most influential. Çarşı is a “left wing” supporters group and the most politically active. Gezi Park protest was not unprecedent action for them. During the 2005/2006 football season, they collaborated with Greenpeace to oppose the installation of a nuclear power station in Sinop (a Turkish city near the black sea).

Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray fans. Source : Uludagsozluk.com

Courage shown by Çarşı during Gezi Park protest was not without risk. After the protest many of them were arrested, detained, and brought to trial. They were charged with “plotting a coup”. Furthermore, the indictment was explained that they were “attempting to capture the Prime Ministry’s offices with the aim of creating “Arab Spring-like upheaval”.

Criminal indictment against Çarşı received many criticisms, one of them was from an international human rights NGO, Human Rights Watch (HRW). ” Charging these Beşiktaş football club fans as enemies of the state for joining a public protest is a ludicrous travesty. It reveals a great deal about the enormous pressure being exerted on Turkey’s justice system by the government” , said Emma Sinclair-Webb, the senior Turkey researcher at Human Rights Watch. “.

Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) deputy Atilla Kart described the indictment as a strong indication of fascist rule in Turkey. “The government wishes to put the entire society under pressure. This is fascism. The government calls all acts by civilians, which include prevention of the uprooting of trees and protection of the environment, coup attempt”, he complained.

Support for Çarşı also came from Borussia Dortmund fans. When Dortmund played against Frieburg in Signal Iduna Park stadium on 13 of September 2014, Dortmund supporters unfurled a banner reading : “Do not give up” and “Freedom for the Ultras (Çarşı) and Turkey”.

Until now, the trial against 35 members of Çarşı is still ongoing. Çarşı continued to actively voice the oppressed, for example by joining May Day march. What Beşiktaş,  Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray did in Gezi Park protest is a proof that football can play a unifying role in a fight against tyranny. Perhaps, for many people, justice, democracy, and freedom have died in Turkey. However, the struggle will continue whenever and at any cost.

Çarşı participated in May Day

Çarşı participated in May Day. Source : Hurriyet.com.tr

Bu makale, adalet, demokrasi ve özgürlük için mücadele eden türk halkına ithaf edilmiştir (This article is dedicated to Turkish people who are defending justice, democracy, and freedom)

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*This article was translated from Indonesian. Please read the original version here .

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