A Turkish soccer player known to be one of the staunch supporters of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, an ally-turned-foe of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), started working as an Uber driver in the U.S.
Şükür, who fled to the U.S. before the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt that’s widely believed to have been masterminded by Gülen, said that he sells books and drives for Uber to make a living.
“I moved to the United States, initially running a cafe in California, but strange people kept coming into the bar,” Şükür told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
The 48-year-old former striker scored 51 goals in 112 appearances for Turkey between 1992 and 2007. He was part of the Turkish side that finished third at the 2002 World Cup.
He spent the majority of his career at Turkish club Galatasaray.
After retiring, Şükür became an elected deputy of the AKP between 2011-2013, resigning right before a major corruption probe into key AKP figures that the government says was organized by Gülenists in the judiciary as a plot to overthrow the government.
Upon fleeing Turkey in 2015, Şükür, for whom an arrest warrant was issued and whose assets were seized as part of an ongoing case in Turkey, ran a cafe in California that eventually went bankrupt.
“I have nothing,” Şükür said, as he accused President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of “taking everything away from him.”
“Erdoğan took everything: my freedom, my freedom of expression and my right to work,” he said.
Commenting on the attempted takeover that resulted in the deaths of over 250 people, Şükür said that “he didn’t do anything illegal.”
“Nobody is able to explain what my supposed role in this coup was. I did absolutely nothing illegal, I am not a traitor or a terrorist,” Şükür said.
“I may be an enemy of this government, but not of the state or the Turkish nation. I love my country. After the split with Erdoğan, I started receiving threats. My wife’s shop was attacked, my children were harassed, my father was thrown in prison and all of my assets were seized,” he added.