The full decision and grounds on which three minors were acquitted of denigrating the Turkish national anthem has just been released, stating that refusing to stand up for the national anthem does not constitute denigration or disrespect. The three Kurdish minors were acquitted six months ago, having been arrested and charged for remaining seated during the anthem at a football match.
The nuance is important, because while denigrating the Turkish national anthem is an offence in the Turkish Penal Code, disrespecting it is not. Nevertheless, almost on a weekly basis numerous Kurdish football fans, and particularly fans of Amedspor, suffer the indignity of arrest, detention and court for remaining seated during the anthem.
The three children, identified only as H.C.T., U.E. and A.E., who were arrested and charged with not standing during the national anthem at a match between Amedspor and Menemenspor, were acquitted of denigrating the anthem at Diyarbakır Juvenile Court No.2 in June this year. However, the decision has been appealed by the prosecution.
The wave of arrests for remaining seated during the national anthem at football matches started on 7 May 2022, with the arrest of 17 fans at an Amedspor-Pendikspor match. The fans were tried, but acquitted later in the year. The decision in that case was finalised as the prosecution took no further action.
Despite the regular arrest and prosecution of fans, including children, for remaining seated during the anthem at football matches, the court cases invariably end in acquittal, according to lawyer Nahit Eren, Chair of the Diyarbakır Bar Association. He also emphasised that it is unacceptable to detain people who have not committed any offence, noting that the charge is often changed to ‘resisting arrest’, especially in cases of people aware that they have not actually committed an offence.
“Law enforcement needs to stop detaining people for an act that the law does not define as a crime and that the courts do not consider a crime,” Eren added.
In spite of the repeated acquittals, there was yet another incidence of arrest of Amedspor fans on Sunday. Muhsin Aydoğdu, a board member of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Equality and Democracy Party (HEDEP), and three other Amedspor supporters were arrested from the stands and detained during an Amedspor – Fethiyespor football match, again for refusing to stand up for the national anthem, and charged with “denigrating” the anthem. Other than Aydoğdu, all the arrested were minors.
Amedspor is the main football team for Diyarbakır (Amed), a major Kurdish-majority city in southeast Turkey. In 2014 it changed its name from Diyarbakırspor to Amedspor to reflect the team’s Kurdish nature.