Police stage raids on Turkey’s top football supporter groups

Police stage raids on Turkey’s top football supporter groups

Police stage raids on Turkey’s top football supporter groups

The Spor Toto Super League derby between Beşiktaş and Galatasaray was halted in its final minutes, after dozens of fans flocked to the pitch on Sept. 22. AA photo

A police operation has been carried out against the supporter groups of Turkey’s top three football teams, resulting in the detention of 72 people in the early hours of Sept. 27. 

The leading members of Beşiktaş’s Çarşı, Fenerbahçe’s GFB (Genç Fenerbahçeliler) and Galatasaray’s Ultraslan were detained in the operations in Istanbul, while simultaneous raids took place in İzmir, Mersin and Kocaeli. 

GFB leader Sefa Kalya, former Çarşı leader Alen Markaryan, and prominent Ultraslan figure Muzaffer Şirin were among those detained. 

Interior Minister Muammer Güler said the operations were not directly linked to law number 6222, popularly known as the Law on Violence in Sports, but rather that the detentions target an organized crime group.

“There is organized activity and crime in the stands. Custodies are executed as part of the investigation carried out by the specially authorized prosecutors, within the scope of this [crime],” he said. 

Güler said the operation was made because of “attempts to loot, threaten opposition players and take advantage of sports clubs,” adding that former officials of the clubs were also part of the investigation. 

Supporter groups have come under the spotlight recently, especially after the summer’s Gezi Park protests, which turned into nationwide anti-government rallies after a heavy-handed police crackdown on a sit-in against a city central park renovation plan. 

On May 31, fans of three football teams organized and acted together against the police crackdowns. A newfound friendship between the three fierce rivals led to the forming of another group called Istanbul United. 

However, unlike Çarşı, which took a frontrunner role in the street clashes in the Beşiktaş district, GFB and Ultraslan did not actively take part in the protests later in the summer. 

Before the start of the new football season, Güler and Youth and Sports Minister Suat Kılıç said politics would not be allowed in stadiums and declared that political slogans were banned. 

However, Gezi Park slogans - such as “Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance” - were repeatedly heard in the stadiums of the three Istanbul giants during the opening games of the season.