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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Ousted gay referee seeks reinstatement in Turkey


A former Turkish soccer referee who was forced out of the football federation two years ago because of his homosexuality has ask an Istanbul court to reinstate him.

Halil Ibrahim Dincdag, 35, accuses the Turkish Football Federation of passing documents to the media showing he was exempted from compulsory military service because of his sexual orientation, which in turn led to death threats.

As a result, his soccer team gave him the red card in 2009 the country’s conscription military had rejected him because of a “psychosexual disorder.”

Dincdag decided he would not go quietly. He came out on national television and sued the Turkish football association for discrimination.

That is no mean feat in a country rife with homophobia where spectators decry opposing players and referees whose decisions they dislike as faggots. It’s an even braver act in Dincdag’s native Trabzon, a Black Sea city known for its legendary soccer club, its fanatical football fans and hot-tempered, explosive inhabitants who are quicker with a knife than with their wits.

Dincdag’s case is being closely followed by rights groups and has attracted much attention in Turkey, where homosexuals are excluded from the military, although many hide their sexuality and complete military service due to fears of social prejudice. Turkey is one of very few Muslim countries where homosexuality is not totally banned by law.

"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 said.

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

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.

"The real reason behind the federation's decision is my sexual orientation" Dincdag said.

The court hearing was adjourned until October 20.

European Union candidate Turkey has been slammed for its poor record on gay rights by activists and the bloc itself.

In a May report, Human Rights Watch urged Turkey to urgently change laws to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from harassment and violence against them.

Human rights groups are closely following his case as a test of improvements to gay rights in Turkey.

Dincdag believes he will ultimately win once his case has wound itself through the Turkish court system and is argued in the European Human Rights Court, the ultimate adjudicator of Turkish human rights violations.

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