NOTE: An Updated Version of This Post Can Be Found at Balkanist.net at http://balkanist.net/may-day-footballs-interaction-political-developments-turkey/
Another May Day came and went in Istanbul with much of the same old—police force used to suppress demonstrations on the “Worker’s Holiday”. This year, however, there was a little bit of an international feel to it all in the wake of the Baltimore riots back in the USA. The U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, kicked it all off with a photoshopped picture of himself with blonde hair in response to comments made by Ankara’s AKP mayor Melih Gokcek who tweeted “Where are you stupid blonde, who accused Turkish police of using disproportionate force?” The uncouth comment was directed at U.S. State Department spokesperson Marie Harf, as Mr. Gokcek was—apparently—still seething over the fact that the U.S. had criticized Turkish police for using disproportionate force during the Gezi Protests two years ago.
Mr. Gokcek is indeed an interesting character, and football fans will know him better as the man who buried the famous football club Ankaragucu in debt after his son, Ahmet Gokcek, became chairman (with a little of his father’s help, naturally).
And the international feel didn’t end there—A Çarşı banner was unfurled in Athens during May Day celebrations as well (http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/28893041.asp). I say celebrations because only in Istanbul does May 1 become a war zone…still, there was some time for football on Istanbul’s blockaded streets.
Image Courtesy Of: http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/dunya/28893041.asp
A week after May Day’s violence President Recep Tayyip Erdogan scheduled an AKP rally on May 9 for a “general opening ceremony” (it is still unclear as to what was being unveiled) in the Izmir Ataturk Stadium, one of Turkey’s largest stadiums, in order to galvanize his support in a province that has never voted for him. The pictures tell the story; in some shots it seems as if there are more police than citizens and even the decision to move people from the stands onto the playing surface failed to produce the illusion of a large boisterous crowd. Before the rally, Mr. Erdogan said that AKP supporters wouldnt be able to fit in the stadium. But, of course, there is a reason: The AKP’s Izmir province president Bülent Delican said that the low turnout was the fault of Izmir’s governor and vowed that “The happiness of those who criticize us will be short lived. The AKP organizations will reckon with those who are now smiling on May 24 at Gundogdu [a main square in Izmir where the AKP is planning a major rally]. The AKP have 466 thousand members in Izmir. We can fill nine stadiums like that one”.
More Cops than Citizens? Perhaps.
Her Trabzonspor iPhone cover isn’t fitting for someone from Izmir…Then again, the AKP is known for bussing in supporters from all over the country to attend their rallies.
Maybe they can. But the issue at hand is not whether the AKP can fill stadiums with boisterous supporters; the issue is the rhetoric used by representatives of the AKP. The AKP member quoted above, Mr. Delican, makes no effort to mask the contempt he feels for his political opponents. Such vitriol has no place in a democratic society whose President is—ostensibly—expected to represent all members of a country, not just those that voted for him or her. Unfortunately the events of May 1, 2015 were not anomalies; they are just further indications that the AKP is looking to dig in their heels during the run up to elections in June, and that criticism—or even lack of support—will not be taken well.