Turkey’s first openly gay football referee continues legal battle

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Turkey’s first openly gay referee has said he will push on with his legal battle against the Turkish Football Federation, who barred him from officiating over matches in 2008.

Halil Ibrahim Dinçdağ, 35, was forced by the TFF to leave his position because he had been excused from compulsory military service on account of his homosexuality, an incident which came to light through a medical report.

According to Turkish football regulations, anyone who fails to complete their military service for health reasons is deemed unfit to work as a referee.

After his dismissal, Mr Dinçdağ filed a criminal complaint against the TFF and sought up to 100,000 Turkish Liras in damages.

Speaking to Anatolia News Agency, Mr Dinçdağ said: “I have suffered much damage, both psychologically and financially . . . 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 [had been] 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.”

Mr Dinçdağ said he did not want to sue the body, but had been left with little option after the National Governing Body had remained silent on the issue and offered no support.

He said: “Everybody knows that there are many gay referees in European football. It is sad to see it in Turkey while it is normal in the world . . . 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.”

However, Dursun Camali, head of the Turkish Football Referees’ Association has pledged full support, telling Anatolia: “Our friend Halil was a member of the TFFHGD before his right to referee was taken from him. He is fully right in his case and has our full support. We will definitely monitor the developments.”

The case began last week in Istanbul and a second hearing is to take place in May.