Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party, has harshly criticized physical and verbal attacks on the players and fans of a football club from a predominantly Kurdish city and called on judicial authorities to take action against the perpetrators, the T24 news website reported.
A game between Bursaspor in western Turkey and Diyarbakır’s Amedspor earlier this month witnessed violence and the shouting of anti-Kurdish slogans against Amedspor, with tensions always running high during matches between the two clubs.
Not only Bursaspor fans but also the team’s players and personnel were involved in the attacks on the players and fans of Amedspor before and after the match in Bursa.
Bursaspor fans threw a variety of objects including knives, bullets and water bottles onto the pitch before the match began while shouting racist slogans against Kurds.
Kılıçdaroğlu, the joint presidential candidate of a six-party opposition bloc who is running against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the May 14 presidential election, said in an interview with T24 that threatening the Amedspor fans and players over the painful memories of the past was unacceptable.
“Whoever makes these threats, permits them or turns a blind eye to them is a traitor and a separatist,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, calling on judicial authorities to take action.
In addition to staging physical and verbal attacks on Amedspor football players and fans, some Bursaspor fans waved controversial banners and posters during the match representing the extrajudicial killings and abductions that took place in Turkey’s southeast during the 1990s, at the height of the Turkish-Kurdish conflict.
The CHP leader also criticized Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), who last week applauded Bursaspor fans for “displaying a national stance” against Amedspor and spoke ill of the team’s Kurdish name, saying that such a name does not even exist.
Kılıçdaroğlu said the Turkish Football Federation approved the team’s name years ago and that they have played dozens of matches at home and away since then.
“I wonder if they just now heard the name ‘Amedspor’,” he said.
Amedspor changed its name in 2014 from Diyarbakırspor to Amedspor, since Amed refers to Diyarbakır in Kurdish. The football team has since then faced several racist attacks during its away games by fans of other football clubs, especially those in Bursaspor, accusing them of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
It is common for Kurds in Turkey to face racist attacks and accusations of links to the PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in the country’s southeast since 1984.