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PHOTOS: The world's most divisive and controversial flags

With the Confederate flag firestorm still burning in the US, here are some other pieces of cloth that have caused riots.

100_2042 Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof holding a Confederate flag.

AROUND THE WORLD, countries have struggled for decades with questions about flags similar to those faced by South Carolina in the last week.

The US state is under pressure to remove a Confederate flag from its statehouse in the wake of the shootings that killed nine people at a historic black church.

Here’s a look at other flag controversies that have stirred strong emotions worldwide:

Germany

Crime and Criminals - Neo-Nazis - Stuttgart Neo-Nazi material found during a house raid in Germany in 1997. Source: Associated Press

With the defeat of Adolf Hitler in 1945, the Nazi’s scarlet flag with a black swastika was banned in Germany and remains so today.

Synonymous with the genocidal policies of the Nazis, the flag, the swastika and all other such symbols are illegal to display today, but remain favorites of neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists, both inside Germany and around the world.

Middle East

Mideast Islamic State Q&A Demonstrators in Mosul, Iraq carry the Islamic State group flag in June, 2014. Source: Associated Press

In the Middle East, the Islamic State group has co-opted the centuries-old “Black Banner” to use as its standard.

It carries the message in Arabic: “There is no god but God; the Prophet Muhammad is the messenger of God,” which has been adopted and manipulated by many jihadis who claim to be enforcing God’s law.

As Kurds in northern Iraq reclaim territory taken by ISIS, they’ve taken to flying their own red, white and green flag rather than that of the Iraqi government, creating tension among Arabs living in Kurdish territory.

South Africa and Rhodesia

103600296_5 Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof wearing a jacket emblazoned with the old flags of South Africa (top) and Rhodesia (bottom)

Dylann Roof, the alleged South Carolina shooter, posted a picture of himself wearing a jacket with the flags of the now-defunct white-supremacist regimes in South Africa and Rhodesia, which is today Zimbabwe.

Before 2000, small groups of whites in Zimbabwe continued to run exclusive clubs where the Rhodesian flag was flown but since the anti-white wave that came in conjunction with the country’s land reform program, it is not to be seen anywhere.

The flag of today’s South Africa was designed in a spirit of reconciliation that aimed to unite the country’s racial groups after a protracted period of conflict.

Cyprus

Charleston Shooting Flags Abroad File photo of a UN peacekeeper in front of the Pentadaktilos mountain and its flag of the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Source: Associated Press

In the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the flag, a red crescent and star between two red stripes on a white background, is seen by many as symbolizing their wish for separate statehood from the internationally recognized Republic of Cyprus.

Many in the Greek south, however, see the flag as a provocative symbol of an illegal state.

They’re also rankled by a massive painting of it on the side of the Pentadaktylos mountain range next to an inscription reading, “What joy it is for he or she who says ‘I am a Turk.’”

Spain

Spain Fascists A far-right protester wrapped in the pre-constitutional Spanish flag at an event in Madrid in November 2014. Source: Associated Press

Some Spaniards still harbour deep divisions from the country’s 1936-1939 Civil War and use flags of that era to show support for the political ideals espoused by the war’s opposing sides.

Extreme right-wing Spaniards protest while waving flags with Spain’s red-and-yellow colors emblazoned with a black eagle used by the regime of fascist dictator Francisco Franco.

And leftists wave the red, yellow and purple flag of the Second Spanish Republic.

Belfast

belfastflag Loyalist protesters burn the Irish flag at Belfast City Hall in December 2012. Source: Photocall Ireland

The flying of the Union Jack and tricolour has triggered tensions in Northern Ireland for decades.

However, it came to head in December 2012, after Belfast City Council narrowly voted to restrict the flying of the British flag at City Hall, a century-old practice.

In response, furious Protestants poured onto the streets to demand the return of the Union Jack’s year-round display.

Mobs blocked roads, attacked politicians’ offices and homes, and fought running street battles with police. Two months of violence left more than 200 people injured.

England

English Defence League protest English Defence League protesters in Nottingham in 2009. Source: PA WIRE

In England, the national flag — the red-on-white cross of St. George — has had an image makeover in recent years.

It was shunned for a long time and regarded as the preserve of right-wing “Little Englanders” mired in nostalgia and xenophobia.

But it’s been rehabilitated, in large part as the flag of the English cricket, soccer and rugby teams, and now flies from government buildings every 23 April, St. George’s Day.

It remains a powerful and sensitive symbol, though.

Just last year, Labour MP Emily Thornberry was forced to step down as Shadow Attorney General over what some perceived as a sneering Twitter photo of a house with English flags hanging from the windows in a working class neighbourhood.

Balkans

Source: RT/YouTube

Last October, a Euro 2016 qualifier between Serbia and Albania was abandoned after a drone carrying an Albanian nationalist flag flew over the pitch.

The incident provoked a massive brawl between players and fans on the pitch, as shown in the video above.

The banner in question featured a map of “Greater Albania”, comprising large chunks of neighbouring states, including Serbia.

A Serbian player pulled the banner down and Albanian players tried to protect it. In the resulting disorder, Serbian fans attacked Albanian players.

Historic tensions between the countries were fueled by Kosovo, an ethnic Albanian-dominated region that declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

New Zealand and Fiji

Prince of Wales - Fiji Visit - Castaway Island Prince Charles on a visit to a school in Fiji in 2005. Source: PA WIRE

At one time, the Union Jack was part of the flags of many countries that were once part of the British Empire, but is now only incorporated into a few.

New Zealand is holding a referendum next year on whether to change its flag, which features the Southern Cross constellation with the Union Jack in the top left corner.

Some view it as an unwanted relic from a colonial past and too similar to the Australian flag.

Others, including many combat veterans, are deeply attached to it.

The Pacific Island nation of Fiji is also preparing to remove the Union Jack from its flag, after the prime minister said it needs something that represents its future and not its colonial past.

Contains reporting by the Associated Press.

Read: What is the Confederate flag and why is it still flying?>

Read: How this seemingly innocuous tweet caused a big row and forced a Labour MP to resign>

Timeline: How the flags drama unfolded in Northern Ireland>

About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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