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Kurdish politician faces investigation for wearing jersey with word ‘Kurdistan’

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Turkish prosecutors have launched an investigation into a local politician from the ranks of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) on allegations of terrorism for wearing a jersey during a football match bearing the word “Kurdistan,” the Artı Gerçek news website reported on Tuesday.

HDP Bismil district co-chairperson Refai Baran faces charges of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization by wearing the Kurdistan jersey.

Baran testified to the prosecutors after photos from the football match played on July 11 were posted on social media. Baran reportedly told them that the photos from the football match do not constitute any elements of a crime and that he did not share them from his own social media account.

“I have no intention of spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization. If I had, I would have posted the photos myself. The word ‘Kurdistan’ on my jersey is a geographical reality whose status has been recognized by the UN,” said Baran in his testimony. He also recalled that Binali Yıldırım, a former prime minister and Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) mayoral candidate for İstanbul, recently used the word “Kurdistan” in Diyarbakır during an election rally.

The Turkish bureaucracy and the public remain overly sensitive to the word “Kurdistan” and the tri-colored Kurdistan flag, which in some cases have been associated with “treason and terrorism” linked to the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

There have been cases of people being arrested for wearing Kurdistan T-shirts, activists detained for waving Kurdistan flags and students interrogated for tweeting a picture of the flag.

The websites of Turkey’s Presidency, Prime Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs as well as the state-run Anadolu news agency refer to Kurdistan as the Kurdish Regional Administration of Iraq.

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