Six Kurdish football team Amedspor fans were detained after Turkey’s Interior Ministry launched an investigation into supporters who waved Kurdistan flags during a match in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır on Sunday, the Mezopotamya news agency reported.
Amedspor defeated visiting Bursaspor 0-2 in its stadium in Diyarbakır. Both teams are in the Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) second league.
Police intervened when some Amedspor fans waved the tricolored flag of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq and chanted pro-Kurdistan slogans to celebrate their team’s victory.
The Interior Ministry announced on Sunday evening that an investigation had been launched into the fans due to the display of Kurdistan flags and the chanting of pro-Kurdistan slogans during the match in Diyarbakır.
The ministry described the incident as a “provocation” and said the fans brought the flags into the stadium under their clothes. It said no provocations will be allowed on sports fields.
Following the ministry’s announcement, police raids were conducted on the houses of some fans in Diyarbakır on Monday in which six people were detained. The detainees, who are accused of “engaging in an act of terrorism by waving the flag of an imaginary country,” were taken to the Diyarbakır police station for questioning.
The Turkish bureaucracy and the public are sensitive to the word “Kurdistan” and the tricolored Kurdistan flag, which in some cases have been associated with “treason and terrorism” linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
There have been cases of people being arrested for wearing Kurdistan T-shirts, activists detained for waving Kurdistan flags and students interrogated for tweeting pictures of the flag.
The websites of Turkey’s Presidency and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the state-run Anadolu news agency, however, refer to the KRG in northern Iraq as “Kurdistan.”
Meanwhile, the Diyarbakır Bar Association in a written statement on Monday condemned the detention of the Amedspor fans for waving the Kurdistan flags, recalling that the flag is that of the KRG administration recognized by the Iraqi Constitution.
The association said the investigation into the fans and their detention are unacceptable and lack legal grounds and that the detainees should be immediately released.
Amedspor, its players and fans have repeatedly been been the target of racist attacks in Turkey as they are associated with the PKK, which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s Southeast since 1984.