Tag Archive: Turkey


Turkish Super League began on August 14. Now, some top players started to follow Wesley Sneijder’s (Galatasaray) and Didier Drogba’s (former Galatasaray player) path. They were Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Robin van Persie, Nani (Fenerbahce), Samuel Eto’o (Antalyaspor), Mario Gomes and Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas). Not to mention continued speculation linking Victor Valdes with a move to Galatasaray.

With the transfer of top players, it seems that Turkish league will be more attractive, especially for fans of big clubs (Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray). But behind the glamorous of world of new signings, Turkish league existence is being threatened.

Last season, the spectators has fallen dramatically. It happened since the implementation of new ticketing system called passolig by Turkish Football Federation (TFF). This system requires football supporters to acquire a card called passolig to buy a ticket. The problem is that the passolig contains personal details including name and bank account number.

Initially, passolig was introduced as implementation of Law Number 6222 of 2011 on Prevention of Violence and Disorder at Sporting Events. Hoooliganism taking place in big some of big matches triggered TFF to take strict measure, one of them was applying passolig system.

In fact, passolig was negatively responded by football fans. They boycotted the matches in protest at passolig. As a consequence, attendances in stadium dropped sharply. According to stadiumdb.com , the number of Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray fans fell by an average of 15.335, 22.241 and 16 255 people per game.

In a country like Turkey, football can’t be separated from politics. And passolig accused as a part of the attempts to spy on citizens. In addition, passolig also considered violating protection of personal data.

People in Turkey have used football as a tool to exercise freedom of expression. Passolig was implemented last season, 1 year after after anti-government protest in Gezi Park, Istanbul, which was spread to other cities in Turkey. At that time, supporters of Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray took to the street to participate in such protest.

In December 2014, Çarşı, a leftist supporter group of Besiktas, was indicted by prosecutor on charges of trying to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan (now President of Turkey) on that protest. This result in lower public trust in government.

Withdrawal of Sponsorship

As of January 2015, due to the decrease in the number of attendance in stadium, Yildiz Holding withdrew as a sponsor. Yildiz Holding is a Turkish top business group which has become a sponsor of TFF, Fenerbahce and Galatasaray. In his letter to TFF, Murat Ulker, owner of Yildiz Holding (the richest man in the Turkey according to Forbes magazine) said that Turkish football brand value has dropped and the games become unattractive.

Ulker also criticised on passolig system. He said nobody wants their information to be collected. He also slammed TFF decision regarding foreign player quota. “Teams can now play with 11 foreign players. This is irrational. Then what will the Turkish players do?”

Yildiz Holding is known for its contributions to sport activities in Turkey. Over the past nine years, their contribution to Turkish football reached 215 million US dollars. The decision was really unfortunate, because it doesn’t rule out any other companies withdrawal from sponsorship.

Besides passolig and the withdrawal of sponsor, Turkish clubs are also in debt. According to data from the Stoxx Europe Football Index released by bloomberg.com, Beşiktaş, Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray and Trabzonspor were on the list of 22 football clubs with the highest debt.

Interestingly, despite the debt, Turkish clubs signed top players. Fenerbahce, for example, agreed to pay Van Persie as much as 6.2 million US dollars per season. Similarly, Galatasaray wasn’t left behind by bringing Lukas Podolski.

How could it be? Emre Deliveli, a Turkish economic consultant who was interviewed by bloomberg.com said : ” Galatasaray is buying because Fenerbahce is buying, and Fenerbahce is buying because Galatasaray is buying “.

Meanwhile, in April this year, some Besiktas assets were seized by court for its debt amounting to 3.8 million US dollars to an advertising company called Active Tanitim.

Security Threat

Last year, Donetsk’s Donbass Arena Stadium bombed as a consequence of conflict between the armed forces of Ukraine and pro-Russian separatist. As a result of this conflict, Shaktar Donetsk had to move its headquarters to Kiev and its training ground to Lviv.

The situation in Turkey is not as bad as in Ukraine. However, on 22 July, a suicide bombing by suspected ISIS supporters rocked Suruc (a city on the border with Syria). One of the participants of Super League, Gaziantepspor, has its headquartered in Gaziantep, which sits on the border between Turkey and Syria .

Potential security threat also faced by Istanbul and other cities. In fact, terrorist cells also spread in big cities. Fortunately, Turkish government responded by conducting large scale anti-terrorist operations in 13 provinces (including Istanbul) shortly after the bombing.

Other examples of terrorist attack which “disrupted” football competition were bombing of the British Consulate and HSBC building in Istanbul by Al-Qaeda terrorist network in 2003. As a result, 2 European matches, Juventus vs Galatasaray and Besiktas vs Chelsea, were moved from Turkey to a neutral venue.

In the end, the existence of Turkish football depends not only on the technical aspects of football. Social politics and economics aspect also play an active role. Business and technical aspect of football remain the domain of club and TFF. However, security is “absolute domain” of government. Will the Turkish football climb out of this crisis? Only time will tell.

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This article was translated from Indonesian. The original version has been published in Topskor Daily Sport Newspaper, 15 August 2015 . You can see the original version below .

Dear Mehmet,

How are you? Well I’m sure that you are not ok. Living in detention has never been ok because you have no freedom. As an investigative journalist, writing is the greatest happiness for you. I’m sure that your colleague in Taraf newspaper and the readers are missing you so much.

Source : www.724haberal.com

                  Source : http://www.724haberal.com

Dear Mehmet, I don’t know about you. I’m just an ordinary Indonesian girl who likes keeping up with Turkish political news. I knew about your detention by reading turkish online newspaper. I’m so sad with what has happened to you. It reminds me of what happened to an Indonesian journalist several years ago. Do you want to know about it,  Mehmet?

Fuad Muhammad “Udin” Syafruddin was an investigative journalist, just like you. Tragically, he was killed at his house on 16 August 1996. Until now, his mysterious murder has not been resolved.  To know more about the case, Mehmet, you need to understand political situation in Indonesia at that time. In 1996, we were still living under the authoritarian regime of General Soeharto. At that time, General Soeharto oppressed critical journalists and political opponents, just like what happens in your country right now.

Picture of Udin. Source : skalanews.com

                    Picture of Udin. Source : skalanews.com

Udin worked at Bernas Daily Newspaper in Yogyakarta. Before he died, he wrote a series of articles on corruption in Bantul regency.  His murder became a national issue because it was presumed that local government officials was involved. Instead, police didn’t arrest the real murderer but sacrificed a man named Dwi Sumaji a.k.a Iwik. That stupid police charged Iwik with : “murder because of jealousy”. Later, he was acquitted by judges due to lack of evidence.

Dear Mehmet, several weeks ago I read that you have been transferred to unhygienic cells with inhumane condition along with Hidayet Karaca (president of Samanyolu Broadcasting Group) and some police officers. Even they didn’t provide you  with fork and spoon to eat! That’s why on the first paragraph in this letter I said that you’re not ok. Besides, I’ve read that you were detained because of releasing classified documents by publishing it on Taraf newspaper. Well, whatever was it, you just did your job, for the sake of public interest. Nevertheless, I understand that some people don’t like what you did . “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong”, said Voltaire.

Sadly, in your country, journalist imprisonment is becoming a trend. On 1 December 2014, Committee to Protect Journalist (CPJ) released a report on imprisonment of journalists worldwide. It was said that there were 7 Turkish journalists who were being jailed. And I’m sure that the number will be increasing because more and more journalists have been arrested and detained so far in 2015.

In my country right now, none of journalist are taken to court and imprisoned but sometimes they are always become target of violence by police. Freedom, justice, and democracy are quite expensive here in my beloved country, dear. Uhmmm…what else should I write?? Ah, I remember that you were detained on 2 March 2015. It means that you were detained 5 days before your birthday!!!! Celebrating (or not celebrating it ?) your birthday in detention was tragic. I can’t imagine the pain that you bear! 

Dear Mehmet, I hope you keep going strong although it’s very hard. I hope political situation in your country will be better as soon as possible. Let’s hope and pray that the best is yet to come after the general election on 7 June. Deposuit Potentes de Sede et Extalavat Humiles (He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted those who were humble). Keep fighting, Mehmet, hiçbir zaman yalnız yürümeyeceksin (you’ll never walk alone). As you said when you were handcuffed by the police : “I’m going to bury them [those pressing charges against me] in the trash bin of history. These handcuffs are my pride. Journalism is my pride”. Never lose your pride, dear!

Baransu was handcuffed. Source: zaman.com.tr

                  Baransu was handcuffed. Source: zaman.com.tr

 

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 .