Mixed wrestling investigation brings ethical questions

Mixed wrestling investigation brings ethical questions

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
Mixed wrestling investigation brings ethical questions

21-year-old female wrestler Nurcan Kılıç (bottom) wrestles with a younger male athlete when her female collegue does not show up at the Youth Day ceremony. DHA photo

Controversy over this year’s Youth Day celebrations has gained an ethical dimension after a provincial sports council in the Black Sea province of Samsun started an investigation into a male-female wrestling show that occurred during this year’s celebrations. 

“What happened in Samsun is not suitable to our culture and ethical values. A male and a female wrestling in such proximity is not in our values. But it was not a planned thing and happened haphazardly due to a lack of female wrestlers,” Turkey’s Wrestling Federation head Bekir Çeker told Hürriyet Daily News over the phone.

Çeker said that in many parts of the world, male and female athletes practiced together. “In tae-kwon-do and other sports too, men and women can practice together. Plus, what happened in Turkey was not a game, it was just a show in a ceremony,” he said.

Authorities had launched an official investigation into the male-female wrestling demonstration that occurred during May 19 celebrations in Samsun, when a 21-year-old female wrestler Nurcan Kılıç wrestled with a male athlete.

“The wrestling was not planned. My female colleague, with whom I was going to show some wrestling tactics in the stadium, did not come to the ceremony, so I wrestled with a younger colleague in order not to feel ashamed in front of the protocol,” Kılıç said after the celebrations.

“This was not a match, it was a show. I would not want to be in the news with this,” she added.
Among the Youth Day celebrations audience protocol members were Samsun governor and sports provincial director. 

“An investigation has been launched about wrestling between male and female athletes, which is not part of our ancient sport of wrestling,” Samsun Gov. Hüseyin Aksoy said after the ceremony.

Others, however, have reacted to the Governor’s comments saying the incident showed professionalism and that it should not be questioned with ethical values.

“I think that what the female athlete did was a professional decision,” Canan Koca, an academic from Ankara’s Hacettepe University specializing in gender and sports told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Koca added that the incident in fact showed the lack of female wrestlers in Turkish sport. “There are many licensed male wrestlers in Turkey and unfortunately the number of female wrestlers is only few. Instead of discussing this, the sports council is investigating the ethics of mixed wrestling,” she said.

This year’s Youth Day celebrations had already created some tension between the government and the opposition, following the former’s controversial initiative to curb military presence in celebrations marking national holidays. Authorities in a number of cities also denied a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and opposition politicians permission to stage such ceremonies. 

According to Turkey’s Wrestling Federation head Bekir Çakır, the mixed gender wrestling debate issue is an extension of such debates.

“Some people are trying to politicize this issue by reacting to mixed gender wrestling as if it happens every day. Let’s not make politics over sports,” he said.