Turkey’s first openly gay referee gets German anti-homophobia award

Turkey’s first openly gay referee gets German anti-homophobia award

Ali Varlı BERLIN
Turkey’s first openly gay referee gets German anti-homophobia award

Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ receives the 2014 Respect Award from Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit on Nov. 24.

A Turkish referee who was dropped by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) after coming out as gay has received the Respect Award, given Nov. 24 annually by the Berlin-based LGBT rights nongovernmental organization Alliance Against Homophobia.

Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ, 38, acknowledged that he was gay in 2009 while he was an official in a lower division in the Black Sea province of Trabzon. The TFF then unilaterally expelled him on the grounds that he had been exempted from military service due to his sexual orientation.

Dinçdağ received the award from Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who made public his sexual orientation prior to the 2001 mayoral race with a landmark statement that entered German political annals: “I’m gay, and that is a good thing.”

During the ceremony, Wowereit said he supported Dinçdağ in the legal battle he has assumed since coming out. For his part, Dinçdağ said he “will not give up" until justice is served.

The Turkish referee was not only suspended from his 14-year occupation, but also lost his job on a sports radio station and received threats from Black Sea mafia groups after his case was reported in national media.

However, many LGBT groups and other NGOs showed their solidarity with Dinçdağ’s case, which has put a spotlight on the male-dominated football culture, particularly visible in stadiums, where homophobic insults and slogans directed at referees or opposition players from supporters is common.

Dinçdağ denounced widespread discrimination within the TFF, explaining that it specifically targeted minority groups, including Alevis in some cases. “If I began writing them down, there wouldn’t be enough pages,” he said during an interview with online news outlet Bianet.