Dear Riyadi, The Turkish Flag Raised To Tease Homentmen Wasn’t Photoshopped, And Yes It’s Despicable

It says a lot when the knee-jerk reaction to something as disgusting as this is to cry foul and call photoshop instead of calling out those who did that.

It says even more that the men who were holding the Turkish flags weren’t even holding them right: they were just there to tease the Armenian team the team they’re supporting was playing.

I posted the above pictures on my blog’s Facebook page and was immediately inundated by replies that it was photoshopped. No, it wasn’t. Not only was it shared by one of Al Riyadi’s top Facebook fan pages, but a little zooming in and you can see the person holding the flag. Some even tried to defend it. Anything to save face? No, just no.

Perhaps it’s a good thing to have a “it’s photoshopped” reflex in order not to raise tensions, but when faced with evidence that it’s not, the right route is to own up to it and apologize to the team you were playing whose entire history you insulted, to those who support that team whose ancestral struggles you’ve insulted and to your fellow citizens whose fight is a daily, yearly thing to have their genocide recognized. And all for what? Teasing?

There’s a whole other level of disgraceful when you have to sink to such low levels and then try to justify it. Turkey is a good friend to Lebanon? Yes, but that’s not the place to celebrate that. People wanted to commemorate the memory of our victims at Istanbul’s Reina attacks? Really now, against an Armenian team, during a basketball game that followed a period during which organizers for both teams wanted to deviate tensions?

The fact of the matter is that Turkish flag was intentional, and that picture was authentic and the act was despicable. It was even preceded by fans making that “joke” on social media over and over again:

But it’s not a joke. It’s not funny. What it is is disgusting, disgraceful, hurtful and despicable.

To set an example, Al-Riyadi should identify whoever those fans were and ban them from attending future games of the team in order to set an example. It’s easy to dismiss such acts as goofy play, but we’ve experienced them way too often and fans of multiple teams have been banned from courts so repeatedly for things to remain as is. Sometimes, such as this time, you have to call out things as they are so people know that doing them isn’t worth the laughs they got with the bros or that surge of pride they felt when they pulled that flag out of their pocket mid-game.

This is about the mentality that would push a supporter of a particular team, in this case Al Riyadi Beirut, to figure it’s a good idea to insult Armenians in the worst way possible by bringing a Turkish flag to a game and not even hold it properly, or the mentality of a Sagesse supporter chanting Islamophobic slogans just because they can. The examples are endless, and they’ve been thoroughly documented.

I’m 100% certain that this is not what all Al-Riyadi supporters are like as many of my friends are supporters of that particular team and they would never be in such poor taste as to pull a similar¬†stunt. I’m also positive that such stunts do not paint the picture of the entirety of Lebanon’s basketball fans. However, with sectarian and political slogans becoming as part of the game as the ball, isn’t it high time for the entirety of the game to be re-assessed?

The Genocide They Want Removed From Our Collective Memory

I imagine life would have been much different for me had my last name ended with -ian. I’d have come from a very different place than the one I currently come from. I would have spoken yet another language. ¬†I would have grown up listening to stories that morphed into darker and darker territory as I grew older: stories told by my grandparents, stories of my friend’s great grandparents, stories of entire families and homes and communities and towns and cities that exist no more today.

If I were Armenian, I’d have been an immensely proud person of those people who are the reason I am here today, the people who defied the cold, the heat, the hunger and the systematic killing at the hand of a ruthless sultan, the people whose stories would give me strength, enriching my view of the world, making it more and more certain each day that this is not – as many want everyone to believe – a just world.

If I were Armenian, I’d carry around a baggage of horrors around with me of things that happened to my ancestors, things few dare to speak of because of how ruthless they are. I’d never let go of those horrors, clinging to them even more when the hands of time try to take them away. Those horrors would have made me who I am.

If I was Armenian, I’d be mad as hell today that the death of 1.5 million ancestors of mine is – to some countries – nothing more than a political pawn for them to play with, for them to have a political auction with, for them to try to forget, for them to try to make me forget. for them to try to take down historical memory lane: never written, never discussed, never acknowledged, never recognized.

If I were Armenian, I’d be livid that the memory of 1.5 million of my countrymen, all martyrs because of their ethnicity and their religion, is being tarnished by some who want to portray it as nothing more but a collectively inserted piece of fiction in the memory of a far-away nation I’d still feel belonging to, a nation that is still hurting 98 years later.

If I were Armenian, I’d still be hurting today and I’d hurt everyday people across communities do not recognize my people’s struggles the way they are eager to recognize the struggles of others, just because it soothes their guilt. I’d be angry no one feels remorse and guilt for the cold-blooded murder of my people, one by one – women and children and elderly and men.

But I am not Armenian. I am but an irrelevant Lebanese with a voice that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. But I feel it’s my duty to tell whoever listens that there is a people of this world who was systematically killed for just existing and whose killing isn’t recognized by everyone the way other genocides are. I’d tell that a country that plays with my country like a yo-yo killed those people and has been trying to convince its own people for 98 years now nothing wrong happened. And I would never forget and – until everyone acknowledges what happened – I wouldn’t forgive.

May all the martyrs and innocent souls of the Armenian Genocide rest in peace.

Tsitsernagapert, inside the museum: A photo of the museum next to the memorial, Yerevan Armenia. - Photo by Shant Demirdjian

Tsitsernagapert, inside the museum: A photo of the museum next to the memorial, Yerevan Armenia. – Photo by Shant Demirdjian