Gay Turkish Football Referee Fights Back After Firing
Turkey's football federation is "backpedaling" after firing referee Halil Ibrahim Dincdag because he is gay and outing him to the press following a surge of public support in his favor. The surge was in response to the fact that instead of running and hiding, Dincdag went on a popular sports program to discuss his sexuality.
The Independent reports: "Mr Dincdag's television appearance was an act of considerable courage. Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, unlike in some other Muslim countries. But homophobia is widespread, no-where more so than in the world of football. 'The crowds shout 'faggot' at referees whose decisions they don't like,' Mr Dincdag said. 'Well, here I am.' His principled stance brought him a wave of support. Three-quarters of Trabzon's 80 referees rang him up to congratulate him. Thirty thousand people signed a petition launched by Turkey's most influential newspaper backing his campaign. One columnist even compared him to Harvey Milk, America's first openly gay politician. Turkey's deputies brought his case to parliament. Most importantly for Mr Dincdag, his pious family, from whom he had kept his homosexuality secret, stood behind him.
Said Dincdag: "They thought I was an ant that they could crush, they thought I would run away and hide in a corner. But they have destroyed my life and I will fight them to the end. The day the press started writing about me, I went into a coma, and the day I appeared on TV I died. Thirty-three years of my life had disappeared. Since then, I have been trying to resurrect myself.""
The football federation now claims that Dincdag was fired for his performance and activists are saying his case has the potential to become a landmark anti-discrimination case because of Turkey's European Union accession bid.
Said Ali Erol, a spokesman for KAOS-GL, an Ankara-based gay and lesbian rights group: "For years, the European Union has been talking about the importance of legislation on sexual discrimination in the workplace. So far Turkey has not taken one step forward."