July 5 – Stadium security staff in Azerbaijan face accusations of human rights violations after seemingly confiscating an LGBT rainbow flag from two Danish fans ahead of last Saturday’s Euro 2020 quarter-final with the Czech Republic.
Photographers captured the moment two guards approached the two men and took the flag, triggering a large-scale social media reaction.
“An official guard came up to me and pulled the flag out of my hands,” Kristoffer Føns told Danish public broadcaster DR.
“I thought before going to Baku that we are going to a place where human rights are not really a thing. I have been very sceptical about the fact that the World Cup is being held in Qatar so I thought that I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t do anything.”
The organisation Danske Fodboldfans (Danish Football fans) tweeted later that the flag had been returned but Denmark’s minister for equality, Peter Hummelgaard, said he was appalled.
“We must not lose this fight for equality because this is about some basic human rights,” he said. “We have to be strong in the middle of this fight to have the right to love whoever you want to. And the right to live as you want and be who you are.
“There are some countries, organisations and people are who actively fighting these rights with everything they can. The fight is not easy to win because there are strong forces against it, but that does not make the struggle any less important.”
The incident happened two days after one of the main sponsors of the tournament, Volkswagen, said they had been told not to display advertising banners in the rainbow colours in Baku and St Petersburg for Euro 2020 matches. “Due to UEFA’s concerns about the legal framework for venues in Russia and Azerbaijan, the association informed us it wouldn’t be possible to use rainbow-coloured advertising on billboards in Saint Petersburg and Baku,” the German car manufacturer wrote in a statement.
Earlier in the tournament, UEFA denied Munich City Council the right to light up the Allianz Arena in rainbow colours for Germany’s final group match against Hungary in protest at new anti-LGBT laws passed in Budapest, another Euro venue.
But UEFA distanced themselves from the latest incident.
“We never instructed stewards in Baku – or in any other stadium – to confiscate rainbow flags,” a statement insisted. “As soon as UEFA had been made aware about the incident we contacted our delegate and security officer at the stadium to investigate and clarify the issue with the local stewards. We were informed after the match that the flag had been returned to its owner.”
“The rainbow flag is a symbol that embodies UEFA core values, promoting everything that we believe in – a more just and egalitarian society, tolerant of everyone and UEFA has ensured that the flag was returned to the supporter.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com