01/04/2011 | Writer: KAOS GL

March 2 2011
Hürriyet Daily News

Turkey's first openly gay referee says he will not stop his legal battle against the national football's governing body for blocking him from his profession as a match official.

Former football referee Halil İbrahim Dinçdağ first became known to the public in 2008, when it emerged that the Turkish Football Federation, or the TFF, stripped him of his rights to officiate matches.

Dinçdağ was then forced to leave his job because he had been excused from his compulsory military service on account of his homosexuality, which was documented in a medical report. According to the sport's regulations, anyone who fails to complete his military service for health reasons is unfit to perform as a referee.

The 35-year-old filed a criminal complaint against the Turkish Football Federation and sought compensations up to 110,000 Turkish liras for damages.

The case started last Tuesday in Istanbul and the second hearing will be in May.

Dinçdağ spoke to Anatolia news agency about how the TFF ruined his life over the last two years.

"I have suffered much damage, both psychologically and financially," said Dinçdağ on Wednesday. "After my sexual orientation was leaked to the press by the TFF, my life changed dramatically.

"First, I was forced to quit refereeing, which I love most. I also had to quit my job as a speaker at a radio station, which I was doing for 16 years. I have been unemployed for a long time and it hurt my soul very much. I even have trouble paying for the expenses of this tribunal."

Dinçdağ said he did not want to sue the TFF, but he had no option left, since the national governing body was silent in this situation and did not support the former referee at all.

"I never wanted to sue the TFF but in the end I had to," Dinçdağ said. "I shed sweat for this institution for 14 years. I tried to contact them before the case, but they did not even respond to my lawyer. We could have found a solution but they did not want to."

Dinçdağ believes that he can return to refereeing at the end of the case.

"I will not back down from this legal battle, which I started to get my rights back," he said. "I believe I am right and we will see it at the end of this case. But if the decision is made against me, I will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights."

"Everybody knows that there are many gay referees in European football. It is sad to see it as a disaster in Turkey while it is normal in the world."

Meanwhile, the head of the Turkish Football Referees' Association, or TFFHGD, said the body backs Dinçdağ in his case.

"Our friend Halil was a member of the TFFHGD before his right to referee was taken from him," Dursun Cumali told Anatolia. "He is fully right in his case and has our full support. We will definitely monitor the developments.

"They made a wrong decision [to strip him of his duties], but I believe the TFF will make the right call soon and Halil will be back in his job," Cumali added.

Original Link of this News Article: Turkey's first openly gay referee adamant to continue battle
Tags: human rights