Footballer Deniz Naki flees Turkey for Germany after attack

Deniz Naki composite Image copyright Deniz Naki copyright
Image caption Deniz Naki (L) playing for his club Genclerbirligi and (R) with the black eye after the attack

A Turkish-German footballer targeted in an allegedly racist attack has left his club and flown out of Turkey.

Striker Deniz Naki, who plays for Turkish Super League club Genclerbirligi, was attacked in Ankara on Sunday and got a black eye as well a minor injury to a hand.

He had recently expressed support on social media for the Kurds defending the strategic Syrian border town of Kobane from Islamic State (IS) attack and posted comments and pictures criticising IS militants.

Naki told the BBC he was attacked by three men while out buying food.

Once they recognised who he was, he said they they started insulting him for being of Alevi-Kurdish origin - a religious and ethnic minority in Turkey. Turkey has an Alevi population of up to 15 million, including both ethnic Kurds and Turks.

"They were swearing and asking: 'Are you that dirty Kurd? Are you Deniz Naki?'" he said.

"Then they said: 'Damn your Kobane, damn your Sinjar'. I tried to calm them down. But suddenly one of them punched me in the eye. Trying to defend myself, I punched one of them back and started running away.

"As I was running I heard them shout: 'Was the first warning not enough? This is your second and last warning. Leave this country, leave this city, leave this football club!'"

He boarded a flight back to Germany on Tuesday night.

Image copyright Deniz Naki

Naki was targeted on social media six months ago because of a tattoo he has on his right arm that reads "Dersim 62", the traditional name and vehicle number plate of the eastern Alevi-Kurdish town of Tunceli.

He played for German clubs St Pauli and Paderborn before being transferred to Ankara top-flight team Genclerbirligi last year.

His decision to leave Turkey now was not down to fear, but rather concern for his family and friends, he said.

This time he was punched, but what if next time he ends up stabbed or shot, he asks.

"If I go out with my team-mates and one of them gets injured, how can I live with that? If I go out alone, I might get attacked again three or four months later.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Naki's most recent German club was Paderborn in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia

"My parents live in Germany. They were worried. They couldn't sleep at night. That's why I chose to leave."

Asked about his future plans, the 25-year-old told the BBC he had no intention of returning.

"There is no tolerance. I would only go back because I love my country, I love my hometown. That's it. I will carry on with my career in Germany."