In Summary
  • Mahsum Kazikci, a passionate member of Amedspor's "Resistance" fan group, reflects the feelings shared by many fellow supporters when he speaks of the "racism" the club faces.

If ethnic tensions in Turkey are reflected on the football pitch, then Amedspor and their Kurdish following are at the very centre of the field.

The club represents the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir in south-eastern Turkey, about 120km (75 miles) from the Syrian border, with a population of about one million.

Mahsum Kazikci, a passionate member of Amedspor's "Resistance" fan group, reflects the feelings shared by many fellow supporters when he speaks of the "racism" the club faces.

"There is a saying: 'We will win by resisting'," he says.

"When Turks say it, there is isn't any problem, but Amedspor fans can't even write it on a banner. Despite this we will never change our personality, our way. We will continue on this path. We are a legal fan club of a legal football team."

The club was founded in 1990 but in 2014 they rebranded - "Amed" comes from the Kurdish name for Diyarbakir and its surrounding region.

This new name is just one of the reasons behind the pressures they have faced in recent years.

They are a long way from the top of Turkish football - they are not even vying for the top places in the country's third highest division - but their games are often overshadowed by conflict and confrontation between fans.

That is, when their fans are not banned from attending matches.

I visited Diyarbakir on a sunny Spring Sunday when Amedspor had a home game against Sancaktepe, a team from Istanbul.

None of Amedspor's supporters were allowed in to watch. The reason for the ban stemmed from a mysterious incident in early March.

Mansur Calar, an Amedspor player, was accused of slashing rival players with a razor blade during a home match with Sakaryaspor, a team from Adapazari, on 2 March.

Sakaryaspor said their players had also been attacked as they inspected the pitch and again during the warm-up.

After the game, on social media, players shared photos of their necks showing scarring. Pro-government media outlets called Calar a "terrorist with a razor blade".

POLITICAL CAMPAIGN

The Turkish Football Federation banned him for life and imposed a fine of 25,000 lira (£3,500; $4,550). The penalty was later reduced to a 20-match suspension, but he still faces a judicial proceeding.

Calar says he is the victim of "a political campaign against Amedspor".

"It's nonsense," he tells BBC Turkish. "How could a football player possibly bring a razor blade and wound his opponent? It's impossible.

"It was like a derby for us so yes, I was a bit aggressive. But those scars were made by my nails, not a razor blade. I was taking guitar lessons and my nails were a bit long."

"Things I did not do went viral, out of control on social media," he says, blaming "fake news" for the bans imposed.

"When we go to an away game, the rival team's supporters chant racist slogans against us," he adds.

"This is hard to take psychologically. Amedspor are under immense pressure and we struggle under these conditions."

It is common to see grey wolves at Amedspor's away matches - it is a symbol adopted by Turkish nationalists. Giant Turkish flags are also waved and slogans such as "Kurds out, terrorists out" and "This is Turkey, not Kurdistan" are shouted.

In 2016, Amedspor executives were beaten by a mob in the capital Ankara after a game against Ankaragucu.

In 2017, Amedspor's German-Kurdish player Deniz Naki, who had been previously convicted of supporting the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) militant group, was banned for life and accused of "spreading separatist and ideological propaganda" through his social media posts.

'CENTRE OF POLITICS'

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