Amedspor, the football club of Turkey’s mainly Kurdish Diyarbakır province, was targeted on Saturday by a Turkish gendarme commander after a bomb attack that took place earlier this week.
The provincial gendarme commander of the western province of Afyon spoke to the players of the city’s football club before their match against Amedspor, referring to the bomb attack in Mersin with the aim of motivating them to beat their rivals on the pitch. “Afyon really needs you to win,” the commander, Colonel Yılmaz Kırgel says to the players in a video that went viral on social media, “especially after the terrorist attack we witnessed in Mersin, I say this from the heart: 5-0. If you beat them in a crushing defeat, we will see them off.”
One policeman was killed and the two female bombers also died in the attack in the southern province of Mersin on 26 September. The military wing of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) assumed responsibility for the explosion, that took place near a police housing complex.
Amedspor and Afyonspor played out a 1-1 draw in Saturday’s match, despite a red card against Amedspor that left the team with 10 players, two penalties in favour of Afyonspor and continuous chanting against the Kurdish-populated province’s team.
A tweet shared by Amedspor before the match read, “Who’s being racist now?
Stop playing politics with Amedspor!”
It is not the first time Amedspor has been treated as a scapegoat in the wake of a deadly explosion, amid the rising tensions in the country over the Kurdish-Turkish conflict. After a bomb attack in Ankara in 2016, no hotels would accept the team for a match in Sivas city, and they had to stay in one 40 km away.
Following widespread criticism on social media, Kırgel shared a statement saying that he had been misunderstood and his words went beyond his intentions.
According to the gendarme commander, his conversation with Afyonspor players was aimed at encouraging them to simply concentrate on the match, as the country’s security forces were on duty at the stadium to prevent any adverse incidents. He also added that his speech had been recorded and shared on social media without his permission.
The Diyarbakır Bar Association announced on Twitter that it intends to lodge a complaint against against Kırgel under article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code, which prohibits the provocation of hatred and hostility in society.