On the 30th of August 2019, the banner pictured above was unfurled at a UEFA sanctioned match between A.E.K Athens and Trabzonspor in Turkey. The words on the banner referenced the 1922 Smyrna Holocaust, an event which was one of the final acts of the Greek Genocide. Those who felt offended, humiliated or insulted by the banner are encouraged to read and send the protest letter below to both UEFA and FIFA using the contact information provided. 


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Subject: Offensive banner at the AEK vs Trabzonspor match, 30 Aug 2019.

Dear UEFA and FIFA,

I refer to an incident at a UEFA Europa League match at Medical Park Stadium in Trabzon, Turkey on the 30th of August 2019 between A.E.K Athens and the Trabzonspor football club during which an offensive banner was unfurled by the home team spectators. The banner in question had the words 'CAN YOU SWIM?' emblazoned on it, words which were deliberately chosen to incite and mock fans of the opposing Greek team A.E.K Athens and all those affected by the 1922 Smyrna Holocaust.

The words on the banner referenced the final phase of the genocide of non-Turkish civilians in Turkey - Greeks, Armenians, Assyrians and others who were forced to frantically swim for their lives into the Smyrna (today İzmir) harbor in Turkey to avoid being killed by marauding Kemalist forces in September 1922. For at least two weeks during that fateful month, non-Turkish civilians living in Smyrna were subjected to rape, massacre and humiliation by nationalist Turkish forces. These acts coincided with the burning of the city of Smyrna to ashes, a city which prior to its destruction had a majority Greek population. Some sources cite the death toll at 100,000, mainly Greeks and Armenians. The 1922 Smyrna Holocaust is an event that Greeks commemorate each September with remembrance ceremonies worldwide. In 1998, the Greek Parliament assigned September 14 as a day of national mourning for the Greek Genocide and in particular for the loss of lives during the Smyrna Holocaust and throughout Turkey during the period 1914-1923. It is no coincidence, that the opposing Greek football team in the above-mentioned match, A.E.K (translated: Athletic Union of Constantinople) has its origins in Constantinople (today Istanbul, Turkey) and was formed in Greece in 1924 following the genocide.     

The banner was a clear contravention of the following UEFA rules as stated in UEFA's Disciplinary Regulations (2017 Edition):

Article 16: ORDER AND SECURITY AT UEFA COMPETITION MATCHES, which explicitly states that national associations and clubs are liable for the inappropriate behavior on the part of their supporters. The article clearly prohibits: "the use of gestures, words, objects or any other means to transmit a provocative message that is not fit for a sports event, particularly provocative messages that are of a political, ideological, religious or offensive nature."

Article 11: GENERAL PRINCIPLES OF CONDUCT, which refers to "ethical conduct, loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship" of the sport and in particular states that disciplinary measures will be taken for those "whose conduct is insulting or otherwise violates the basic rules of decent conduct" and will discipline anyone "who uses sporting events for manifestations of a non-sporting nature."

Article 14: RACISM, OTHER DISCIPLINARY CONDUCT AND PROPAGANDA, which states that UEFA will discipline any person "who insults the human dignity of a person or group of persons on whatever grounds."

I also refer to FIFA's CODE OF ETHICS (2018 Edition) and clauses 22 and 23 in particular, which mentions the sanction of those who "offend the dignity or integrity of a country, private person or group of people through contemptuous,  discriminatory or denigratory words or actions" and prohibits people to "not use offensive gestures and language in order to insult someone in any way or to incite others to hatred or violence."

I urge UEFA and FIFA to enforce these rules and to take immediate disciplinary action against the club in question and its national association. Sporting stadiums should not be venues for people to openly and freely insult others with impunity. This instance in particular, where descendants and victims of a genocide were mocked and insulted should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Disciplinary measures including an apology by the offending team must be strongly considered.

Your in trust,