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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 4, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 22
Gay Turkish soccer ref sues to get his job back
Section One
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Gay Turkish soccer ref sues to get his job back

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A Turkish soccer referee who says he was outed, fired from his job, and subjected to death threats because he is Gay sued to be reinstated on May 31 in an Istanbul court.

Halil Ibrahim Dincdag accused the Turkish Football Federation of passing documents to the media showing that he was exempted from Turkey's compulsory military service because of his sexual orientation.

Dincdag, who served as referee for 14 years in Turkey's second-tier league, told the court that his right to work and to privacy had been violated, and demanded his job back, along with 110,000 Turkish lira ($69,000) compensation.

'I have been unable to find a job since my name hit the headlines. I have received threats, and have lost hope of earning my own living,' Dincdag told Reuters reporters after the hearing.

'The real reason behind the federation's decision is my sexual orientation,' Dincdag added.

The court hearing was adjourned until October 20.

The Turkish football federation declined to comment but has said that referees must have completed military service or have been exempted for reasons unrelated to health. In the past, they alleged that Dincdag was fired for poor performance, and not for his sexual orientation.

The case is being closely watched by human rights groups and has attracted considerable public attention in Turkey, where Gay men are barred from military service.

Many Turkish men hide their sexuality and complete military service due to family and social pressures.

Soon after he was fired in 2009, Dincdag went on Turkish television to discuss his sexual orientation.

'The crowds shout 'faggot' at referees whose decisions they don't like,' Mr. Dincdag said. 'Well, here I am.'

His openness brought him a wave of public support.

Three-quarters of the 80 referees in Dincdag's hometown of Trabzon phoned to congratulate him.

Thirty thousand people signed a petition launched by Turkey's most influential newspaper backing his campaign to get rehired. One columnist even compared him to Harvey Milk.

Turkish legislators also brought his case to parliament.

Most importantly for Dincdag, his very religious family, from whom he kept his sexuality secret, stood behind him.

'[The football federation] thought I was an ant that they could crush, they thought I would run away and hide in a corner,' Dincdag said.

'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.'

Turkey is a candidate for admission to the European Union, but its record of human rights violations, including discrimination against its LGBT population, has been an obstacle to its entry.

'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,' according to Ali Erol, a spokesman for KAOS-GL, an Ankara-based Gay and Lesbian rights group.

In a May report, Human Rights Watch urged Turkey to change its in order laws to protect LGBT people from harassment and violence.

According to the report, Gay men and Transgender people are particularly at risk for violent assault and murder.

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