Student arrested for punching man carrying religious order flag in Turkiye

A university student has been arrested over assaulting a man who carried a flag representing the Islamic caliphate following a pro-Palestine rally in Istanbul on Jan. 1.

İsmail Aydemir, a 48-year-old attending the demonstration to show support for Palestinians amid Gaza war, was punched in the face by the student near the Galata Bridge. In the footage captured by a bystander and broadcast by local media, Aydemir claimed that the student called him an "Arab supporter.” The footage further showed that a police officer intervened in the incident and detained the student.

Ege A., identified as a final-year electrical engineering student at Istanbul’s Yıldız Technical University, was subsequently arrested and sent to prison by the duty court.

In his initial statement to the prosecutor’s office, the student stated that the country is going through a sensitive period due to the recent PKK attacks in which 12 Turkish soldiers were killed and the cancellation of the Super Cup final in Saudi Arabia, where Saudi organizers refused to allow Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray players to warm up wearing shirts featuring the image of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Türkiye.

"My father is a retired major, and I was raised with nationalist sentiments. After Saudi Arabia used the photo of our founding leader as an issue against our country and 12 of our soldiers were martyred in terrorist attacks, when I was expecting a Turkish citizen to carry the Turkish flag, I confronted a person carrying a flag with Arabic writing on a green background. I asked him, "Aren't you Turkish? We are in sensitive times,'" the student stated.

"He replied, 'I carry what I want.' There was a scuffle between us. When he approached me, I threw a punch to protect myself. I should have verbally warned him. I regret the incident."

While some labeled the incident as a "racist attack," the Victory Party announced that its deputy chairman responsible for the press will represent the student as his lawyer, reminding that supporting the Islamic caliphate is against the constitutional order in the country. Similarly, a large number of social media users expressed their disapproval of the arrest on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Ege A., who denied allegations of a racist attack, stated that he did not use any derogatory expressions towards any nationality. The student, mentioning that someone else also hit him during the scuffle, stated that he filed a complaint against the person who attacked him.

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