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
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."