Turkish flag raised at Lebanese basketball game in apparent attack against Armenian players
The Turkish flag was raised at a Lebanese basketball match on Sunday (Facebook)
Fierce debate has broken out after fans raised two Turkish flags at a Lebanese basketball match, apparently in an attempt to aggravate Armenian players and fans.
The flags were photographed on Sunday during a game between the Riyadi and Homenetmen clubs in Lebanon’s basketball league. Homenetmen are a Lebanese-Armenian team, representing the estimated four percent of the Lebanese population who are of Armenian descent, according to Minority Rights Group.
One-and-a-half million Armenians were murdered by the Ottoman authorities during the Armenian genocide which began in 1915. However, modern Turkey continues to deny that the mass killings constitute genocide, despite many calls to do so, including from the European Parliament and the Pope.
The recent flag waving appears to have been pre-planned and deliberately provocative, as one Riyadi fan, Mohammed Khoder, tweeted on Sunday morning “Tonight we’ll be raising the turkish flag in the basketball game against homentmen ‘Armenian Lebanese team’! BURNNN”. The tweet was later taken down.
A Riyadi fan page posted the following unapologetic message on Facebook:
If you want to prevent us from raising the Turkish flag at the stadium, then prevent them from singing the Armenian national anthem at their stadium
Meanwhile, one Lebanese blogger called the flag-waving “disgusting, disgraceful, hurtful and despicable”.
(Arabic reads: To be honest, I have seen stupidity before, but never to this degree)
Riyadi club issued the following statement on their Facebook page in response to the incident:
In the statement the club “denounces” and “rejects” the raising of the Turkish flag, emphasizing that no provocative chanting took place during the game, and that the flags were flown after it had finished. The club also offered assurances that it would increase its efforts to prevent a repeat of what happened.
Racism and sectarianism are major issues facing Lebanon, whether it be in attempting to balance Sunni, Shia and Christian interests in government, or combatting discrimination against minority groups including Syrian refugees and, of course, the Armenians.