Turkish soccer body penalizes Kurdish club
A Turkish Football Federation (TFF) decision to penalize a third tier soccer club in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir for adopting a Kurdish name reflects mounting tension in south-eastern Turkey. The tension is fuelled by the realization that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is unlikely to make major concessions before parliamentary elections this summer in peace talks to which both Turkey and Kurdish insurgents remain committed and alleged efforts by some elements of the state to sabotage the negotiations.
The federation charged that the club long known by its Turkish name, Diyarbakir Büyüksehir Belediyespor (Diyarbakir Metropolitan Sport), had changed its name to the Kurdish Amedspor and had adopted the yellow, red and green Kurdish colours in its emblem without the soccer body’s approval. Amed is the long banned Kurdish name for Diyarbakir, the unofficial Turkish Kurdish capital. The federation said the club had also failed to register its new name.
Kurds in Turkey, who account for anywhere between 10 and 23 percent of Turkey’s population, have long been restricted in the use of their languages. Turkey has so far been reluc- tant to concede in the peace talks to Kurdish demands that secondary school education in the predominantly Kurdish southeast be administered in a Kurdish language.
Kurdish nationalists complain that talks between the government and the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), the guerrilla group that has declared a ceasefire in its 30-year war to allow negotiations to go forward that Ankara has so far made only minimal concessions like allowing the use of letters in the Kurdish alphabet that do not exist in Turkish. Some 40,000 people are believed to have been killed in the PKK insur- gency.
Amedspor has rejected the $4,300 fine imposed by the federation and vowed to fight the decision. The incident constitutes one of several in recent months in which assertions of Kurdish national identity have spilt onto the soccer pitch.