Cypriot flag dispute at Arsenal

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 1 December 2006

The relationship between Greece and the rest of the EU on one side, and Turkey on the other side, has been getting a lot of attention this week due to their inability to reach an agreement over Cyprus. Since the turmoil caused in 1974 by first the Greek backed coup on the island, followed by the Turkish invasion, relations have still not been normalised over thirty years later. Only Turkey recognises the northern part of the island as a nation in its own right, whilst the rest of the world sees it as occupied territory that belongs to a unified Republic of Cyprus. The dispute over Turkey's EU accession talks stems from their refusal to allow shipping from EU member state the Republic of Cyprus access to Turkish ports before the EU will lift a ban on exports from the northern part of the island.

Meanwhile a microcosm of the dispute has been playing out in North London, at Arsenal's new Ashburton Grove stadium. Not only did the new stadium seem to be a bit of a hex on the team's early season results, but the stadium has been accused of flying the flag of the internationally unrecognised Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

20061201_trnc.gif

According to The Daily Frappe:

The Greek Cypriot community of London is mad, as it should be, following repeated incidents of a TRNC flag being flown from the Emirates football stadium; home to the popular club Arsenal.

The problem has been going on for a while and has caused the Greek Cypriot community in both London and Cyprus to get agitated with the team for not doing anything.

Written like that it makes it almost sound like Arsenal are flying the flag themselves. As far as I can tell it is a flag that a fan is bringing into the stadium and putting on display when they attend matches. This hasn't stopped an online petition being set up to gather the signatures of those against the flag being displayed in public.

Despite being a frequent visitor to Cyprus, and being based in Greece, I have to concur with the view that Arsenal have taken. As distastful as the sight of the flag is for both the local and wider Greek Cypriot community, having it on display itself in the UK does not break any law, and it isn't really the club's place to decide which 'national' flags can or can't be carried into the ground.

And after all, if between them, the Cypriots, Turkey, Greece, the EU and the UN haven't been able to come up with a solution to the Cyprus issue in the last 32 years, you can hardly blame Arsenal for not wanting to intervene on one side or the other.

12 Comments

does this belong in the realm of freedom of speech?

>> does this belong in the realm of freedom of speech?


Well, given some of the legislation passed in the UK in recent years in the name of anti-terrorism I'm not sure that "the realm of freedom of speech" still applies to North London ;-)

My point is that there is nothing illegal in the UK about flying the TRNC flag. Thanks to 'free speech' there is both the possibility to fly it, and there is the possibility to protest about it.

Personally? I'd rather niether the flag or the TRNC were there, but I also think it isn't well understood in Cyprus or Greece just how much voting against the Annan Plan changed perceptions of the dispute in the wider European community.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyprus_reunification_referendum,_2004

This is how friendly our Greek Cypriot friends are! This is how friendly our Greek Cypriot friends are! Nothing much to say...We didn't forget what they did to us between 1963 and 1974... Our hearts would always be with the 30,000 Turkish Cypriots which were killed by our Greek Cypriot Brothers (!) some were aged 36 days old and some were buried alive...

I have visited the so called petition site and found it to be nothing more than a hate campaign against Turks.

The intolerence shown by Greek Cypriots to a solitary flag of their fellow Cypriots at Highbury goes a long way to explain why the Cyprus problem remains unresolved for over 40 years.

Arsenal should not submit to racism and continue to allow Mete to display the flag of his heritage.

Arsenal have sought to resolve this by banning ALL national (and nationalistic) flags from the stadium. A lot of international fans will now get very upset...

I thought Martin Belams comments summed the situation up perfectly. Why should Arsenal take any side of this arguement? Unfortunately today Arsenal FC have in fact issued a statement banning all national flags from their stadium with immediate effect.
Arsenal FC have always had a strong stance against racism in football. They have also campaigned strongly against quotas for homegrown players. Admittedly (I am an Arsenal fan ;) these benefit the club due to the fans and players they have i.e. Arsenal are a North London club where multi culturism is probably at it's most developed in the UK, also they over recent years have had very few English players and those there have been would make any top club team. They even stamped a big 'Emirates' on the club for the next ten years.
So it was a bit of a surprise as to their decision. Being Northern Irish I sympathise with the situation in Cyprus, however those that forced a football club to take a position and force this decision have done us all a wrong. If someone was flying a flag you do not like in your house fair enough. Petition yourself and have it removed. To make a shared joy to 60,000 others take this decision was just selfish.
I understand those that made this happen only wanted one flag removed but come on be sensible, that was never going to happen. Instead the English (some argue the french ;) flag of Arsenal Football Club must be left at home, along with any other form of national flag. A bit wrong in my opinion and I'm sad to see the day.

The ironic thing about this is that the occupied part of Cyprus ('TRNC') and Turkey, who runs the illegal state, are notorious for not allowing freedom of speech. Go do some reading if you dont believe me - ask any Kurd or Armenian living in Turkey. Ask why Turkey is having such a hard time getting into the EU. Some of the comments above show the hypocrisy of Turks and Turkish Cypriots...they expect Greek Cypriots to act friendly towards a flag that represents the continual ethnic cleansing from their ancestrol home..and on the back of that, one guy wants to call us 'countrymen' when he is promoting the country be split in two. As for the guy who said Greek Cypriots killed 30,000 Turkish Cypriots, thats a total and utter LIE! But I wouldnt expect anything different from a overlty nationalistic and brainwashed people who's country is run by the military. The so-called heritage of the 'TRNC' has lasted for 32 years since the Turkish invasion in 1974. The heritage of Greek Cypriots in the northern part of the island goes back to almost 2,000 BC and they are currently not allowed to enjoy that heritage. As for Arsenal aparently not submitting to racism...well the 'TRNC' is formed on a forceful racially segregated regime. Dont you find that comment a bit of a contradiction now?

Abbasynian, go and do some more reading mate. I am from North Cyprus, my dad is Kurdish, we never had problems...So, go on and do some more read mate, Between 1963 - 1974 30,000 Turkish Cypriots were killed by Greek Cypriots.36 days old babies were buried alive. Please don't judge us before you even know about us...

In the long saga of the Cyprus problem,the TRNC has moved from villain to victim. After years of diplomacy & negotiation,Kofi Annan, former UN Gen. Sec. came up with what most neutrals saw as a reasonable formula for re-unification. This was put to a referendum in Cyprus.Turkish Cyprus voted for it overwhelmingly. Greek Cyprus, safe in its admission to the EU, surprisingly without any condition re a settlement for the island, voted against it. Since then it has used its membership of the EU to make economic, trade & other matters as difficult as possible for TRNC & to obstruct Turkey's admission to the EU. This vindictiveness has now surfaced over here with this move to ban the flying ofa flag at a football ground.Greek Cyprus should take a wider view and put old enmities aside - cf Northern Ireland.

this weekend i flew the trnc flag at the tottenham vs bolton match at white hart lane across the pitch there was a greek cypriot flag hanging there i am proud to fly our flag home and away and will keep flying trnc flag at white hart lane home and away till i die

this is a racist argument so what if mete flew the trnc flag
its not illegal and there are many other flags that get flown at the emirates so i think the greek people who are against it should stop complaining and come up with proper arguments not over a poxy flag for heavens sake !!!!!!!!

THE "TRNC" is only recognised by one country. TURKEY. The U.K aswell as the rest of the world recognises the soveiregnity of CYPRUS. TURKEY a "Country" on the bottom of the worlds shit countries list violates human rights consistently and repeatedly throughout the years and you expect noone to care about the raising of the TRNC's non-flag? you;re dreaming. Just because most britons wouldn give a fuck if the rest of the worlds on fire doesnt make them right. P.S the reason the Greeks of Cyprus rejected Anans plan was basically that it gave a minority of less than 20% of the population 50% of the voting power. Very democratic for an EU country in 2009. TUrkey is illegally occupying EU land and they dont give a f-ck. We do. When East London's Pakis want autonomy and shariah law impossed I will personally act as an intermediary, calm your nerves and tell you you're being racist for not allowing them autonomy. Bloody idiots.

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