Turkish Soccer Fans Were Not Chanting Pro-ISIS Slogans After All (Video)
It’s pretty hard to go a single day right now without everybody on social media getting outraged about something.
Yesterday’s outrage? That was sparked by news of Turkish soccer fans booing and chanting allahu akbar during a moment of silence for the Paris attacks prior to a soccer game between Turkey and Greece in Istanbul. Legitimate news organizations and tabloids alike were all over the story, salivating at all the pageviews it would generate. And sure enough, plenty of people just lost their minds.
However, before you go throw a trash can through the window of your friendly neighborhood hookah bar, there’s something you should know: the story is not nearly as simple as some would have you believe.
Let’s take the issue of the chanting first. As you probably know, the phrase allahu akbar, which in Arabic literally means “God is great,” has sadly become a sort of terrorist rallying cry. However—and this is an absolutely vital detail that major news organizations simply failed to investigate—that’s not what the crowd was chanting.
According to people with actual knowledge of Turkish soccer and the Turkish language, the crowd was actually chanting two separate things. The first was “sehitler olmez, vatan bolunmez,” a popular anti-terror slogan that translates to “martyrs never die, the country will never be divided.” Thus, while the crowd wasn’t being silent, they were honoring the victims of the Paris attacks.
The second thing the crowd was chanting, the thing that was directly mistaken for allahu akbar, was “Ya Allah Bismillah Allahu Ekber.” It’s an old nationalist military slogan from the Ottoman days that used to be played to rally the troops during battle. Over the years it became the rallying cry of the national soccer team. It’s pro-Turkey, and maybe a little anti-Kurdish, but not pro-ISIS.
As for the the whistling, which is the equivalent of booing in most of the world, obviously that comes off as tasteless. But given the pro-Turkey, anti-terror chants, it seems highly unlikely that the whistling was intended to be construed as pro ISIS. One theory is that the fans were booing the terrorists. Another theory, which I suspect is probably closer to the truth, holds that the booing was an expression of frustration that the world doesn’t treat all terror attacks equally. After all, just last month over 100 people were killed in a terrorist bombing in the Turkish capital of Ankara, but nobody superimposed the Turkish flag over their Facebook picture, and I don’t remember the NFL holding a moment of silence.
Of course, that doesn’t excuse the fans for booing. They really just shouldn’t have done it. But the fans were not voicing support of ISIS. It’s unfair to Turkish people, who held candle light vigils across the country to honor the victims of the Paris attacks, to report otherwise.