ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdish footballer Deniz Naki was attacked by one of the fans of the opposing team during a game Saturday night between his team Amedspor SK and Mersin Idmanyurdu in Turkey’s second league.
In the first half of the match played in the Mediterranean city of Mersin, as Naki was preparing to shoot an indirect free kick, a fan made his way from the stands onto the pitch and assaulted the Kurdish midfielder from behind.
He punched a surprised Naki and put him to the ground in moments.
Players from both sides, as well as the police, quickly reacted, stopping the attacker.
Naki was not wounded, and the game went on after a five-minute break.
The man who remained unidentified was then arrested by police, reported Kurdistan 24’s Turkish language service.
It was unclear what charges authorities would bring against the attacker, but the Kurdish side described the assault as racist and accused the authorities of sharing responsibility.
This comes after another Kurdish footballer received racist abuse by fans of a Turkish club during his team’s UEFA Europa League match in Istanbul, Turkey last month.
Brwa Nouri, a 30-year-old Kurd who plays for Swedish club Ostersund FK, received hateful comments before the game against Turkish side Galatasaray SK.
Regarding Naki’s case, Amedspor’s President Nurullah Edemen took to Twitter to blame the governor of Mersin who had earlier banned the Kurdish team’s fans from watching the game.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in a statement condemned the ban as well as the racist attack.
Later on Sunday, Naki himself said on his Facebook page that such attacks did not wear him out but motivated him more.
“Let them behave badly toward us. We will continue giving them flowers,” said Naki, referencing his late team captain Sehmus Ozer who died in a tragic car accident which he survived only to succumb to the freezing weather in the winter of 2016.
“But, this time we will along [with] the flowers give them plenty of goals,” Naki said.
Amedspor won the game 7-0, with Naki scoring one of the goals against the Mersin team.
He also vowed defiance in words attributed to the early 20th-century Kurdish leader Seyid Riza who led a rebellion in Dersim Province against the Turkish republic.
“I couldn’t handle your lies and deceitfulness, and this became a grievance on my part. But, I never knelt down in front of you, let it be a trouble for you,” Naki wrote.
Amedspor and Naki have over the years been attacked several times by Turkish football fans.
In late 2014, while playing for Genclerbirligi, a team from the Turkish capital of Ankara, several men attacked him on the street for his support for Kurdish forces then battling Islamic State (IS) militants in the Syrian-Kurdish town of Kobani.
Naki, aged 27, was born in Germany to parents from the Alevi-Kurdish majority province of Dersim, in the Kurdistan of Turkey.
He began his career with German team Bayer Leverkusen of the Bundesliga in 2005.
He went home to Germany after the racist attack in 2014 only to return less than a year later and play for Amedspor.
Last year, the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) banned Naki for 12 matches, accusing him of “ideological propaganda and unsportsmanlike conduct” over his social media posts in which he lamented the Turkish army’s war with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
He already faces risks of imprisonment in Turkey as a Turkish court last April sentenced him to 18 months and 22 days in jail on charges of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” on social media.
His sentence was suspended after the judge decided to delay the imprisonment for five years on the condition he did not “repeat the crime.”
Earlier this week, police briefly arrested him in the city of Diyarbakir over alleged insults toward President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter.
Naki denied the charge as authorities decided his release after determining the account prosecutors were after was not his.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany