The Green and Red of Amedspor!

For the most obvious of reasons Glasgow has long been framed as being the fabled ‘tale of two cities’ when it comes to its fitba’.

The tale of Glasgow’s two opposites is best defined by what our clubs represent, chiefly, I am talking about the notion of identity and ethnocultural symbolism which is attached to Celtic and Rangers. One, representing a politically conservative and unionist outlook which, historically, has been intertwined with Orangeism, Britishness and anti-Catholicism. The other represents a symbol of Irishness, migration and is sympathetic to republican ideals in its political outlook with a heritage of Catholicism.

Glasgow, it seems, is the defining arena which proves that, yes, football, politics and cultural identity really do and perhaps always should mix. Sociologists and social historians alike have long since written about this – see the back catalogue of the likes of Joe Bradley or John Kelly of Edinburgh University for some great reading on this.

Football clubs and their fans have long been a vehicle for expression one way or another. That is, of course, if the state – in our case the Scottish Government and state agents such as Police Scotland – are willing to allow freedom of expression and cultural or ethnic symbolism to be on display at football games.

The State Says ‘No!’

Many within the Celtic support know exactly what happens when the state decides against such symbolism however. The Flags and Banners Act, many of its derivatives, intrusive surveillance and hastily written legislation or BIlls (OBFB etc.) have perhaps never been more ruthlessly employed in Scotland than when in relation to the display of Ireland, Palestine and even Cuba / Che Guevara flags. All of which have been victims of a delegitimising process witnessed at Celtic Park over the decades. Indeed, the first debate about the ‘legitimacy’ of Celtic flying the Irish tricolour over Celtic Park is now over a century old.

And, in little parochial Scotia, it shows no sign of really going away any time soon.

This process of sanitising football stadiums of political identity or cultural expressionism is, of course, completely hypocritical and depends entirely on what view it is that the fans are identifying with.

When it comes to symbolism in favour of the powerful – that is, the British state, such as the Armed Forces celebrations within stadia or the donning of the Poppy – there exists an almost universal acceptance and legitimacy of this fan behaviour. This ‘holier than thou’ attitude is completely invisible however when it comes to fan behaviour in favour of alternative forms of militarism or which favour states which have had, shall we say, a less than friendly relationship with the British in recent times.

This hypocrisy and absence of fair play in relation to rules governing politicised or ethnocultural fan behaviour and what such fan symbolism in Scottish stadiums actually represents, is discussed in great detail by the aforementioned Dr John Kelly of Edinburgh University.

He states,

‘If displaying what appears to be an Irish republican military figure can be interpreted as supporting Irish republican military actions/violence, does this mean that displays of other actors – such as British military personnel – must also be assumed to offer support for British military violence including (as mere examples) British concentration camps in the Boer War (1899 – 1902) and Kenya (1950s), or the killing of 14 civilians in Derry (1972)?

(Kelly, J., cited in ‘Celtic Minded 4’, 2019, pp. 204-5)

Many have asserted that whilst Rangers are allowed to turn their stadia into a circus of militarism and jingoistic nonsense in the name of the Crown and the Armed Forces – complete with paratroopers abseiling from their stands no less – should a Celtic fan attempt to celebrate the militarism or martyrdom often associated with Irish republicanism, say, by singing the Roll of Honour or the Wearing of the Green, they are immediately delegitimised and popularly cancelled by the mainstream media and, in the not so distant past, could be criminalised for such behaviour.

This, of course, is nothing new.

But it does help explain why large numbers of Celtic fans, typically of Irish migrant heritage and sympathetic to movements of anti-imperialism, can find an affinity with global questions of political and cultural identity such as with the Palestine issue.

Why stop there however?

State Sanctioned Terror

Surely there is room for at least one more global issue of ethnocultural cleansing which is also rooted in militaristic imperialism? Whether it be the Green Brigade or any other fan group who consider there political and moral compasses to be that of a true Tim, perhaps the following cause can find its way onto Celtic Park’s terraces one day soon.

I am talking about the Kurdish issue – one of marginalisation, disputed land which involves a displaced and officially unrecognised community of people numbering just under a million who are othered in what they have come to call their ‘home’, recognised as South East Turkey but known to the indigenous as Northern Kurdistan, close to the Syrian border.

The region of Amed (known in Turkey as Diyarbakir) is home to 930,000 Kurdish ethnic peoples who are typically viewed as foreigners in land which their people have inhabited for over a millennium. Although this article is not the place to delve too deeply into the imperialist and geo-political history of this issue, it certainly is the place to discuss one of Amed’s chief vehicles for awareness and social change – Amedspor SK, the local football team.

Amedspor SK, a 2nd division team in the Turkish footballing system who encountered great success in 2016 when they defeated Turkish Liga outfit Bursaspor to reach the last 8 of the Turkish Cup, have been on the receiving end of ethnically motivated and near Armageddon style treatment from the Turkish footballing authorities and the Turkish state outright. This has included one of their star players and former St. Pauli man Deniz Naki (German birth of Kurdish descent) receiving a lifetime ban on playing football in Turkey. He celebrated ‘politically’ and made ‘politically terroristic’ comments on his social media pages. Seemingly. He was also fined the equivalent of £5,000 for these social media statements which typically read, in Kurdish, ‘long live freedom’ and the ‘terroristic’ statements related to his open criticism of the Turkish government who, in their 2017 military campaign of violence within the Amed region, killed 400 people – including children – with Turkish drone’s.

To this day, Erdogan’s Turkey remains the only nation who use such cutting-edge machines of distanced lethal warfare within its own borders.

Turkish Drone Machinery

Naki also happened to be one of Amed’s star players as he returned 28 goals and countless assists in 58 games between 2015 – 18. Yet, such harsh punishments were only reserved for Naki, despite the fact that it was he who was punched at the end of a game by a rival fan after Amed had proved themselves victorious.

‘Amed is More Than a Sports Club’

The fans and the hierarchy of the club have also been targeted by Turkish authorities on account of their supposed affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers Party, (PKK – a left wing Kurdish separatist group long criminalised by Turkey and the US), after the team decided to ‘illegally’ change their name to be recognised as Amedspor SK rather than by their previous Turkish approved name. Since this democratic and morally legitimate act of ethnocultural pride, they have found themselves under the heel of the Turkish boot of authority and subjugation.

Mahmut Bozarslan of Al-Monitor notes that,

‘Since then (2015 – renaming of the club to a Kurdish name), Amedspor has faced an endless ordeal of unwarranted sanctions, fines and crowd hostility that culminated in an Interior Ministry probe in December. In April 2016, for example, five of the team’s coaches were beaten by the managers and fans of the host team, the capital’s Ankaragucu, after Amedspor won a match between them.’

Unfortunately, for the Kurdish of Amed and the team itself, the woes continue to this day despite Turkey’s most recent military crackdown on the ‘Kurdish Question’ ending in 2017.

Defiant Amedspor Fans

The team continue to be hamstrung within the Turkish football set up as their fans were banned from their away games for 80 matches which spanned 4 seasons, their star player is no more as earlier noted, other players are subject to regular lengthy bans for incidents which go un-investigated by the Turkish FA pending appeals by Amed and they routinely have to accept,

‘…rival fans often greeting the team with nationalist anthems as if Turkey’s national team were playing against a foreign opponent. “Imagine a team that goes to another city for a game and no hotel accepts it. This has nothing to do with sports. This is directed at the identity of the city that the team represents,” he added.’

(Club president, Metin Kilavuz, cited in Mahmut Bozarslan)

Awareness for Amed?

Amed are a team who are truly more than a football club. They are a team who are considered as an enemy within, who represent a cultural and ethnic other and are routinely greeted with jeers and sneers from football teams and regions who represent the dominant group within Turkey. It’s almost as if they are being told that they are not welcome and, indeed, that they are in the wrong country – some of this sounds eerily familiar.

Wouldn’t it be good and proper if a symbol of Kurdish separatism or cultural identity were to make its way to Paradise, nestled neatly between a Palestine flag and anti-fascism symbolism of St Pauli perhaps?

Over to you, Green Brigade et al.

*This article is an edited version of the original article which I published in the April publication of The Alternative View.

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Thanks for reading, Sean

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