Football matches in the Turkish leagues were postponed after twin earthquakes devastated southern Turkey on February 6, killing more than 45,000 people according to the latest official figures. With the resumption of matches on Saturday, the government got a rude awakening when supporters called for the government to resign, protesting its failure to promptly deliver aid and send rescue teams to the disaster area.
First, İstanbul football club Fenerbahçe supporters shouted slogans urging the government to resign during a match against Konya.
“Twenty years of lies and cheating, resign,” Fenerbahçe fans yelled during the match.
Pro-government trolls reacting to Fenerbahçe fans on social media started a hashtag describing them as “paid dogs.” However, this did not prevent more fans from protesting the next day. The fans of popular İstanbul team Beşiktaş protested the government while throwing stuffed animals for children in the disaster area onto the pitch during a game against Antalyaspor on Sunday. The police detained several supporters who were protesting the government.
In response to the anti-government slogans during the Beşiktaş match, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of Erdoğan, canceled his Beşiktaş membership and called on club management to prevent such displays or else play matches in empty stadiums.
Speaking in Hatay on Monday, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu threatened football fans who were protesting the government. Soylu implied that they had shifted all their resources to the earthquake-hit region but that they would also deal with the fans if necessary.
“No one should engage in a fight for Turkey’s security. That’s my advice,” he said.
On Thursday the Istanbul Anatolian Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office began sending notifications to Fenerbahçe fans who had called on the government to resign, saying they were ‘barred from attending sports events.”
Supporters were accused of violating the law to prevent violence in sports for “chanting [slogans] that include threats and insults.”
Meanwhile, Fenerbahçe supporters will be unable to cheer for their team during an away game against Kayserispor on Saturday. The Kayseri Provincial Sports Security Board made the decision to ban Fenerbahçe fans from Kayserispor’s stadium.
On Thursday a local court in Kayseri issued an injunction against implementation of the decision in order to hear a defense from the Provincial Sports Security Board at the request of the Fenerbahçe club. It will be determined shortly before the match whether Fenerbahçe fans will be allowed to enter the stadium or not.
Club management published a statement saying that the decision was unacceptable and demanded an explanation as to why its fans would not be allowed into the stadium.
Some football clubs, including Kayserispor, managed by businessmen close to the government issued statements of support for the government. Most likely, the local authorities in Kayseri were worried about the tension between the supporters of the two teams during the match on Saturday and saw preventing FB spectators from entering the stadium as a solution and also as a way to calm the anger of the Erdoğan government.
Government intervention in fan groups is nothing new. In an indictment drafted by the Terrorism and Organized Crime Investigation Bureau of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in 2015, 35 suspects, including the founder and members of Beşiktaş fan group Çarşı, were accused of attempting to overthrow the government during the 2013 Gezi Park protests. A small park in the Taksim district of Istanbul was slated to be demolished for the construction of a shopping mall. Protesters were the victims of the excessive use of force by the police. The people who were arrested during the nationwide protests were later charged with involvement in a coup attempt against the government. The next hearing of the Çarşı retrial will take place on April 6.
The government is uncomfortable with stories and social media posts that show it as incompetent in the aftermath of the February earthquakes before the general election, which is expected to be held on May 14.
Nordic Monitor previously reported that Turkish police continue to go after people it claims to have shared “provocative” posts on social media after the twin earthquakes devastated southern Turkey on February 6, killing more than 45,000 people according to the latest official figures.
According to statements issued by the Security General Directorate and updated daily, 925 social media users who were accused of creating fear and panic in society were identified, and judicial proceedings were initiated against 548 of them. One hundred thirty-four persons were detained and 25 were arrested by chief public prosecutor’s offices across the country.
On February 8 the Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) imposed a ban on Twitter and TikTok by order of the government. The nine-and-a-half-hour block on Twitter, the platform where people still under the rubble shared their location information and where aid activities were organized, garnered a strong reaction. The government lifted the ban after the backlash.