Anti-Turkish Hysteria In Baku And Bursa Historic Match

Oct 27 2009

The October 10 signing ceremony of the Armenian-Turkish Protocols
was followed by an Armenia-Turkey football match on October 14. The
long-expected World Cup qualifying match between the national teams in
Bursa, Turkey, was repeatedly discussed and commented on, gave rise
to political speculations by certain forces. In terms of sport the
game was not of great interest, as both the Turkish and the Armenian
team were in any case to remain within the subgroup. Politically,
however, the game was of importance – and of special importance for
Turkey. To underline the significance of the sporting event, as well
as Turkey’s efforts to organize it, UEFA President Michel Platini
arrived in Bursa. It was important for Turkey to show hospitality
meeting European standards and simultaneously remain committed to
its policy of "zero problems with neighbors."

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu stated Armenia had its place
in this policy. Turkey almost succeeded in improving relations with
all of its neighbors, with Armenia being the last. The Bursa match
proved to be a good pretext for Turkey to show its goodwill. The
Turkish authorities did their best for the Armenian delegation,
including the national football team, to feel secure — as well as
for Bursa to show its hospitality. Noteworthy in this context are
Bursa Governor Å~^ahabettin Harput’s efforts to properly show the
hospitality of Bursa. Bursa residents also had an opportunity to show
their hospitality to and respect for the Armenian guests. Especially
commendable are the city police officer Levent Agbui and others, who
not only ensured the Armenian delegation’s security, but also settled
various problems the delegation encountered, thereby enhancing the
reputation of the Turkish police.

It is international practice, and the Turkish leaders pointed out that
the football match was a purely sporting event and was supposed to be
held in a friendly atmosphere. Some forces in Azerbaijan and Turkey,
however, did not share the opinion. A few days before the game they
prepared a serious "attack" against Armenia. A signature-gathering
campaign against Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s visit was
organized in Bursa. The campaign was accompanied by anti-Armenian
slogans chanted by the organizers. Azerbaijani organizations are
known to have been actively involved in that process. The so-called
anti-Armenian coalition was promoting the idea of preparing 15,000
Azerbaijani flags. Certain Turkish-Azeri forces managed to create an
artificial "flag" crisis in Bursa. Before the match, Turkish Premier
Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that waving the national flag of Azerbaijan
at the stadium was not banned at all. The Bursa Governor stated that
any national flag could be brought to the stadium.

Nonetheless, FIFA prohibited the demonstration of Azerbaijani flags
on the stands just before the game.

Nevertheless, about 300 Azerbaijani flags were waving at the stadium.

During his visit to Baku later, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet
Davutoglu confirmed the fact. It is noteworthy that an Azerbaijani
flag was hanging from the window of the barber’s shop just in front
of the hotel the Armenian delegation stayed at, and no Turkish
policeman ordered it to be taken down. Azerbaijan was not, however,
feel contented – they were out for "war." Seeing their efforts
fail, they launched an anti-Turkish campaign. The "big brother" was
accused of disregarding the "little brother’s" interests. They must
have forgotten that it is for Azerbaijan’s sake that Turkey has been
maintaining Armenia’s blockade since 1993, for which it has come under
international pressure and criticism. They must have forgotten that —
for many years and on every occasion – Turkey has been defending the
"little brother’s" interests. They must have forgotten that, for many
years, Turkey has been doing its best for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
to be settled in Azerbaijan’s favor by supporting any anti-Armenian
document submitted by Azerbaijan at international organizations. After
all that, Azerbaijan’s response to its "big brother" was as follows:
portraits of the Turkish Premier and Foreign Minister were burned
in Baku before the Bursa match. They burned the portraits of the
persons that attach importance to Azerbaijan’s interests. After the
Bursa match, the Turkish flags were taken down in the "Shahid lane",
which was, apart from everything else, laid out in memory of the
Turks killed during the liberation of Baku in 1918.

Turkey would not understand that step of Azerbaijan. Minister
Davutoglu, who could not believe the bitter truth, rashly stated that
the flags had been taken down to be refreshed and would be hung again.

However, the Turkish FM’s statement was followed by the unhanging of
the Turkish flag from the Office for Religious Affairs, the building
being the property of the Turkish Embassy in Azerbaijan. Later, when it
was clear that the flags had been taken off under the Azerbaijani law,
Davutoglu, while on a visit to Baku, had to state that Turkey has a
similar law, which, however, does not apply to the national flag of
Azerbaijan. He expressed a wish that Baku should not consider Turkish
flags to be "foreign" either.

Baku’s refusal to re-hang the Turkish flags proved to be a rather
unpleasant surprise for the Turkish Premier. Every time, while
speaking of the Armenian-Turkish rapprochement, Recep Erdogan refers
to Azerbaijan’s interests, stating they will not be affected by
the Armenia-Turkey normalization process. As regards the Turkish
flags taken off in Baku, the Turkish Premier expressed hope that
"Azerbaijan understands what it means to remove Turkish flags from
a place dedicated to the memory of the Turkish soldiers killed for
liberation of Baku." Some forces in Azerbaijan remonstrated against
official Baku’s anti-Turkish march. The demonstrations, however,
were dispersed by the police.

The Bursa game proved to be a historic one also due to the fact that
it revealed Azerbaijan’s non-constructive attitude to the matter
of establishing peace in the region, as well as its attitude to its
"big brother", Turkey, which has done so much for her "little one."

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