Turkey: Kurdish footballer banned for 12 matches

Turkish Football Federation (TFF) banned Kurdish footballer Deniz Naki of Amedspor SK, accusing him of "ideological propaganda and unsportsmanlike conduct."

ANKARA, Turkey (K24) - On Thursday, Turkish Football Federation (TFF) banned Kurdish footballer Deniz Naki of Amedspor SK for 12 matches, accusing him of "ideological propaganda and unsportsmanlike conduct" after his team's victory over Bursaspor in the Turkish Cup tournament last week.

In a late night statement on its website, TFF announced that its disciplinary committee also fined Naki 20,000 Turkish Liras, an equivalent of approximately US $7,000.

The Second League team of Amedspor, representing the de facto Kurdish capital of Diyarbakir, rose to the quarter-finals in the Turkish Cup last Sunday after a 2-1 blow to Bursaspor, a team from northwest Turkey.

Amedspor is set to match Fenerbahce next week at a date yet to be decided. TFF banned the Kurdish team's fans from watching the game at Diyarbakir stadium over earlier unfounded accusations of "ideological propaganda."

When the Bursaspor match ended, the midfielder, who is outspoken about his Alevi-Kurdish roots and leftist political views made a victory sign often associated with Kurdish separatism.

He later wrote on his personal Facebook page that he dedicated the victory to those killed and wounded "under the oppression that has gone on for 50 days in our land," referring to the imposed curfews in numerous Kurdish towns.

Two days later, Turkish anti-terror police raided Amedspor headquarters in Diyarbakir and confiscated several computers.

"We are happy and proud to have given our people a little ray of hope in such a difficult time; Amedspor never bows," continued Naki, adding the Kurdish phrase "Her Biji Azadi," (Long Live Freedom).

Additionally, Naki has “Azadi,” the Kurdish word for freedom tattooed on his left arm, alongside a portrait of the iconic Argentinian 20 century revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara.

On Friday, Altan Tan, a pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) MP presented a parliamentary question regarding Naki's ban, to the Ministry of Youth and Sports, asking "How could calling for peace and freedom result in such a ban?"

Naki, aged 26, was born in Germany to parents from the Alevi-Kurdish majority province of Dersim, in Kurdistan of Turkey. He started his career with the German team Bayer Leverkusen of the Bundesliga in 2005.

Naki formerly played for Genclerbirligi SK in Ankara until late 2014 when he was attacked on the street in the Turkish capital for his support for Kurdish forces then battling Islamic State militants in the Syrian-Kurdish city of Kobani.

He went home to Germany after the racist attack only to return less than a year later and play for Amedspor.

Editing by Benjamin Kweskin
(Nevin Diri contributed to this story from Ankara)