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new example of tensions with Turkish athletes


We can laugh at everything… but not with anyone. Sick with Covid since February 5, the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, did not like the joke of a former swimmer (bronze medalist at the 2000 world championship) about him. On his Twitter account, Derya Buyukuncu announced that he was preparing sweets for Erdogan’s funeral. The Istanbul Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation for “criminal messages on social networks”. An arrest warrant was even issued.

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The Head of State insisted on justifying himself. For him “ this crime (must not go) unpunished: it is (his) duty to protect respect for my position, for the presidency. It has nothing to do with freedom of expression. » This incident follows other scandals between the Turkish presidency and sportsmen, opposed to political doctrine.

2016 breaking point

The most symbolic case remains that of footballer Hakan Şükür. A great football star, the striker was one of the architects of the greatest feat in Turkish football, third place at the 2002 World Cup. With such an epic, many sportsmen would be spared from political power. But Şükür chose to oppose Erdogan head-on. After retiring from sport, the player joined the Islamic-conservative AKP party, of which Erdogan is a member. Two years later, the sportsman finally gives up, in disagreement with Erdogan.

The head of state accuses the footballer of being one of the members behind the supposed coup attempt of Fethullah Gulen in 2016. Subject to an arrest warrant, the athlete also sees his assets frozen. ” My wife’s shop was stoned, my children were harassed in the street. I received threats after every statement I made explains Şükür in the German press. He is now exiled to the United States.

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Turkish basketball player Enes Kanter is still playing on the NBA courts. He calls Erdogan a“Hitler of our century”. The Boston Celtics player believes, in the columns of the Swiss daily The weather than “speaking against the government is dangerous. As a top athlete, we have a large audience, that’s what scares him so much. But I let you imagine what happens to opponents who are not known. They are the ones who know the worst, unfortunately. »

The Turkish power also reproaches Kanter for a certain closeness with Gullen. Consequence: his passport was withdrawn and he could not compete in the Olympic Games.

The Kurdish question, a source of conflict

Another frequent point of conflict is the Kurdish question. Since the 1980s, strong opposition has existed between Turkey and this large minority (about a quarter of the population). The PKK, the Turkish workers’ party, wants autonomy for the region. A position qualified as terrorist by Turkey.

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In disagreement, the footballer Deniz Naki, Born in Germany, but of Kurdish origin, shows support for the YPG, the armed wing of the PKK, which has already earned him physical aggression and sporting sanctions. Exiled to Germany, he faces a prison sentence if he returns to Turkey.

Erdogan’s “Sport Power”

Such a position on the part of the Turkish president can be explained. Sporting influence is an integral part of Erdogan’s drive for hegemony. Former semi-professional footballer, the round ball remains his favorite discipline. The most notable example remains the İstanbul club Başakşehir FK, owned by AKP members. With powerful means, the team has established itself as the best in the country and won the championship title in 2020 under the nose and beard of the giants Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe or Besiktas.

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This presence in the world of football allows Erdogan to extend his influence. Former Senegalese defender Jacques Faty has shown his support for the Turkish offensive in Syria. “For Allah, for this holy land, to put an end to evil, our soldiers have left. May God bless the Muslim Turkish army! » he tweeted. Similarly, German footballer Mesut Ozil made headlines in 2019, choosing the Turkish president as a witness to the wedding. Sports fields are therefore not all hostile to Erdogan.

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