ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) - Deniz Naki, a Kurdish footballer who has been targeted by the Turkish government for his political views in support of Kurdish rights, has criticized Mesut Özil on Wednesday for hypocrisy.
In May, Özil and fellow Turkish-German footballer Ilkay Gündoğan posed for a photo with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan during the leader’s visit to London, leading to controversy in Germany and criticism by the German Football Association (DFB) who accused the players of involving themselves in propaganda for Turkey’s June elections.
Last week, Özil retired from the German national team citing “racism” and “disrespect.” The 29-year-old Arsenal midfielder added that “not meeting with the President would have been disrespecting the roots of my ancestors” who he said would be proud of him today.
Erdogan has voiced his support to Mesut Özil after the controversy and says the "racist attitude" shown towards the player is not acceptable.
In response to the events, Naki claims the comments of the German-Turkish player are hypocritical.
“In your statement, you are justified in responding the racism you have encountered and your reasons for leaving the national team,” Naki said on his Instagram account. “But why you are not showing this response when there are more and more racist and fascist attacks in Turkey on me, and on other Kurdish-background or minority footballers?”
Naki noted that he was attacked several times for posing for a picture with Selahattin Demirtas, the imprisoned pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party's (HDP) former presidential candidate.
After playing for three years in Turkey, he was banished from football in the country for life by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF), who accused him of “ideological propaganda” linked to comments he made on social media in support of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey.
"You are saying that the statements of the DFB are wrong. In Turkey, the career of a football player was ended. A peace-supporting human was branded a terrorist. What is your reaction to this?" Naki said.
Moreover, Naki said that though it was apparently acceptable for Özil to defend his Turkish roots, it was not the same for those who defend their Kurdish roots.
In January, the Kurdish footballer player was shot at while driving on a highway in Germany and later blamed the incident on the Turkish intelligence service.
Last April, a Turkish judge gave Naki a suspended jail sentence of 18 months, accusing him of “spreading terrorist propaganda” for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). He denied the charges, saying he only wanted to offer a message of peace in the deadly standoff between the army and Kurdish fighters.
"People died. To prevent people from dying, I have called several times for peace," he said on his Instagram account. "They were Kurdish children, mother, and youth that died, Kurdish cities that were destroyed. I didn't want people to die, I want them to live," he said.
Naki called on Özil to think about this while in Turkey in the future, saying, "Those who will welcome you with open arms in your next trip Turkey, are the same persons, who carried out racists attacks against me. There should be no distinction between fascists, they are the same, in every country.”
"For these reasons, I am calling on you, to not only fight against fascism and racism in Germany, but racism of any kind in the world. I call on you to observe racism against Kurds in Turkey, and to also fight this.”
Editing by John J. Catherine