Kurdish sport club challenges minister over his allegation of terror link

The chairman of Amedspor Sports Club on Thursday reacted with “surprise and sorrow” to  remarks by Turkey’s interior minister who said the club was being controlled by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The PKK is an armed group that has waged a separatist insurgency against Turkey for more than three decades.

Amedspor  chairman Metin Kilavuz said they were receiving  the statements of Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu with “surprise and sorrow”.

Kilavuz said Amedspor was one of the most transparent clubs in the country notably in financial terms.

He added  that all the club’s  financial movements had been documented in the reports which were also submitted to the Turkish Football Federation (TFF).

“In the previous term, our club has undergone all kinds of audits, by mainly the financial inspectors, with similar accusations [as the minister’s]. [However,] it has been seen that even a single negative issue could not be attributed to it [the club]. We also want to declare that our club is always open to auditing,” said Kilavuz.

A day earlier Soylu alleged that the PKK leader Cemil Bayik had ordered group members to collect money, 400 or 500 000 Turkish liras, on a monthly basis to fund the club.

“[Think of] a sports club which is directly instructed by the terrorist organization [PKK]. How can such a thing happen? Can such a thing be performed? Cemil Bayik ordered explicitly, saying ‘support Amedspor’. Didn’t you hear?” the minister said, speaking to the gendarmerie provincial commanders in a meeting in Ankara.

Amedspor is the Turkish Second Football League’s flagship football team of Diyarbakir, Amed in Kurdish, one of the largest cities in the predominantly Kurdish-populated southeastern region of Turkey.

Between 2015 and 2018 the TFF   suspended the club from the league 63 times. The team’s football field has been closed several times for security reasons and its fans have frequently barred from attending away games.

“Unfortunately, [we are] met with bans on our fans, something unprecedented in our country and in the world. Despite the court ruling in our favor, this ban is being kept by the security boards of the interior ministry,” Kilavuz said.

Stadium announcers and TV commentators avoid using the Amed, the club’s Kurdish nameand instead  refer to them as “others”.

Kilavuz said Soylu  was trying to criminalize the club in the eyes of the public. He said the minister  would therefore be responsible for all possible negative developments such as the fanatic attacks during the away matches and the biased decisions by  referees and representatives against the club.

“We find the [minister’s] remarks irresponsible and problematic,” Kilavuz said.

The club, to which many Kurds attribute importance as a symbol of the Kurdish political movement, has been subjected to racist attacks by nationalist fans for the past few years. The fans and staff of the club were recently attacked in early October in Istanbul.

“In addition to physical attacks, we are confronted with psychological attacks, racist statements, and insults from the fans of the opposing teams. Unfortunately, we have got used to it,” Ihsan Cetinkaya from the fan group Direnis which means resistance said previously.

Deniz Naki, Amedspor’s top player had to flee the country in order not to be jailed after he posted a picture of his Kurdish tattoo.

The tattoo had the words Azadi which means freedom in Kurdish on social media.

He also dedicated one of the team’s victories to those who were killed or injured in  clashes between the Turkish military and the PKK.

Despite the achievements of the club and its players, the support of the local public authorities has been cut, the head added.

Following the 2016 July failed coup, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) replaced Diyarbakir’s elected mayor Gultan Kisanak with an appointed official as part of a crackdown targeting the Kurdish opposition political movement, Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

The party won the mayorship in the city on March 31, this time with Selcuk Mizrakli who however was first stripped of his post on August 19 and arrested on charges of being a member of a terrorist organization on October 22.

Ankara accuses the HDP for having connections with the PKK.

Cumali Atilla, the second-time appointed mayor and governor cut the club’s financial support and declared that the team would be funded only after changing its Kurdish name.

Kilavuz has called on the club’s fans to show  solidarity with the football team by coming to the next home match on Sunday.He also urged them to tweet on its social media pages.

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