DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — A soccer team in Diyarbakir, Turkey’s largest Kurdish-majority city, has found itself accused of links to armed Kurdish militants and suffers routine harassment by rival fans. The team's woes have steadily grown amid Ankara’s crackdown on Kurdish militants and politicians alike and rising nationalist fervor in the country.
The troubles of the 48-year-old club began after it took its current name, Amedspor, in 2015. “Amed” is Diyarbakir’s Kurdish name and although its origins date back millennia in the city's history, it has strong political connotations today. The name is often used by members and sympathizers of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has led an armed insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast since 1984 and is designated as a terrorist group by Ankara and much of the international community. The support that Amedspor received from Diyarbakir’s Kurdish-run local administration reinforced the perceived association between the club and the PKK, with whom Kurdish politicians are also often accused of having links.