14 Books to help understand more about Syria, its war and much more.Read More
Saying goodbye to Tarlabasi Tarlabasi is a hive of informal commerce, the streets alive, trade and toil and the struggle to survive in a city overwhelmed, carts with squeaky wheels pushed up and down the hills, hawkers crying and calling, the rag and bone man and the Sahlep seller, in the afternoons the itinerant musicians…Read More
We had visas and letters of introduction and were quickly ushered towards the diplomatic booth, the guard look at the ink smudged pages of my passport with a bemused smirk and called to his colleague for guidance, the advice was simple, just stamp them in. He did and we were. As frontiers go Basra international…Read More
It was one of those biting cold Damascus winter mornings, it had been snowing and the streets were sluiced in slush, I had been living in Mohajarin on the slopes of Jebal Qasioun, I splashed in and out of the dirty puddles as I trudged down the towards the Citadel and the Old city, I…Read More
Syria, a country torn apart by a relentless war, five years of disturbing headlines, dreadful imagery, chemical weapons and a refugee crisis not seen since the Second World War: this is what we know of Syria. Brutal media headlines reducing innocent people seeking peace and security to mere statistics and derogatory adjectives. Individual stories and…Read More
Faisal was the first Syrian friend I made on my first ever visit, he was also the first friend I lost in the war; I made many more friends and lost more too. My first visit to Syria must be some twenty years ago now, only my diaries lost in my Mothers cavernous loft have…Read More
Meeting Besiktas Carsi’s leader, Alen Markaryan, is a daunting prospect. The scene at his kebab restaurant in Besiktas on a recent September evening could be a set from The Sopranos: a dozen men sit around a table deep in heated conversation about football. No one else sits within earshot. They are the elite of the Besitkas Carsi leadership; dangerous men with violent pasts. Markaryan, dressed all in black, has a stare to match and is clearly someone not to be messed with. He is a revered figure among many Besiktas supporters, but crucially, hasn’t attended a game in months.
Markaryan has been criticised by some Carsi members for an article he wrote perceived as supportive of Erdogan’s government. For him, politics and football shouldn’t mix.
“The idea that Carsi was part of the Gezi protests was overdone. If you went to the park during the protests, you would have seen no Carsi group, no flags,” he said.
“All messages in our stadium are social messages – there is no place for politics in the stands.”
Further probing about the link between football and politics elicits only anger.
He takes my pen and draws a line across a page in my notebook. “I thought you came here to ask me about football? No more politics!” He gets up and returns to the table of dons.
Yet in Istanbul, football and politics are impossible to separate.
Stephen Starr for the National