How Racism And Sexism Permeate Turkish Soccer

Istanbul's Türk Telekom Arena
Istanbul's Türk Telekom Arena
Ipek Izci

ISTANBUL — Racism and discrimination have become a constant in Turkey's top soccer league. The latest reminder are tweets from Umit Cinarli’s, a leading referee from the Turkish Football Federation (TFF), on the second anniversary of the Uludere Massacre where Turkish fighter jet bombs killed 34 Kurdish smugglers: “Happy second anniversary of the Uludere incident. The dead mules were worthier than you,” Cinarli wrote in the tweet.

The referee later defended himself, saying he didn't explicitly cite any ethnicity in his tweet. “I defended an action taken by the Turkish Armed Forces. I criticized people who smuggle guns, shoot at soldiers. I do not bear hostility against any race."

Still, such hostility coming from a referee is part of a broader pattern of violence, racism and sexism in Turkey's professional football world: A woman referee referred to as E.D. was criticized in 2008 by the Provincial Referee Board of Kocaeli for sharing a locker room with a male colleague. Later, E.D. filed a case against the board for the comments, which sparked a smear campaign against her in the press, and she was never again assigned to any matches, and was forced to end her career.

During the Feb. 2013 match of the Women’s 2nd Division between Elazig Hedefspor and Diyarbakir Buyuksehir Belediyespor in Elazig, the visiting team was attacked by the opposing team, the male referee, team officials and supporters. Seven out of the 11 people team were hurt, including two who suffered broken legs. The visiting team’s coach stated afterward that they were insulted by the attackers for being women and Kurds.

Halil Ä°brahim Dincdag, football referee for 13 years, was not only fired from his job for being gay but also "outed". The TFF’s Central Referee Board banned Dincdag from the profession in 2009 due to a clause added to their charter four years before that: “Those who were excluded from military duty for health problems cannot be referees." He had indeed been excluded from the mandatory military service for being gay, but it is the military’s procedure to give gays the same report they give to the disabled. “One morning I woke up and saw I was in all the newspapers,” Dincdag recalled. “I became famous as the gay referee, what fame! My life changed in one day. I was without a job, money or friends.” He sued the TFF for damages; the 11th hearing of the ongoing trial will be held on March 4.

Mehmet Ali Yilmaz, then president of Trabzonspor, called Kevin Campbell, a black player of his team, a “cannibal.” No criticism or punishment was issued by the league. Soon after, Campbell left the team and Turkey altogether.

In 2008, Genclerbirligi Coach Samet Aybaba was unhappy with the statements of his Egyptian player Abdel-Zaher El-Saqua to the press after a defeat and said: “They preferred an Arab over me.”

Emre Belezoglu from Fenerbahce called Tranbzonspor player Didier Zokora a “dirty nigger” during a match the two teams played in 2012.

Referees from eastern Turkey are considered “B-grade” at the federation, according to retired referee Reha Bicici from Diyarbakır. “While the federation offers no justification for not assigning you to matches. Do not think of it as Turk-Kurd discrimination, because all of the referees from East are subhuman as far as the federation is concerned,” Bicici said.

Referee Metin Karaaslan’s brother Feyzullah was elected as mayor in Bingol from the pro-Kurdish party HADEP in 1999, and detained in 2000. The referee was ranked fifth among the 36 colleges in the Super League, but he was never assigned to another match that season. Later he was demoted to the 2nd league and eventually resigned. “The decisions were political,” Karaaslan said.

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"The Truest Hypocrisy" - The Russia-NATO Clash Seen From Moscow

Russia has decided to cut off relations with the Western military alliance. But Moscow says it was NATO who really wanted the break based on its own internal rationale.

NATO chief Stoltenberg and Russian Foregin Minister Lavrov

Russian Foreign Ministry/TASS via ZUMA
Pavel Tarasenko and Sergei Strokan

MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry's announcement that the country's permanent representation to NATO would be shut down for an indefinite period is a major development. But from Moscow's viewpoint, there was little alternative.

These measures were taken in response to the decision of NATO on Oct. 6 to cut the number of personnel allowed in the Russian mission to the Western alliance by half. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the removal of accreditations was from eight employees of the Russian mission to NATO who were identified as undeclared employees of Russian intelligence." We have seen an increase in Russian malicious activity for some time now," Stoltenberg said.

The Russian Foreign Ministry called NATO's expulsion of Russian personnel a "ridiculous stunt," and Stoltenberg's words "the truest hypocrisy."

In announcing the complete shutdown in diplomacy between Moscow and NATO, the Russian Foreign Ministry added: "The 'Russian threat' is being hyped in strengthen the alliance's internal unity and create the appearance of its 'relevance' in modern geopolitical conditions."

The number of Russian diplomatic missions in Brussels has been reduced twice unilaterally by NATO in 2015 and 2018 - after the alliance's decision of April 1, 2014 to suspend all practical civilian and military cooperation between Russia and NATO in the wake of Russia's annexation of Crimea. Diplomats' access to the alliance headquarters and communications with its international secretariat was restricted, military contacts have frozen.

Yet the new closure of all diplomatic contacts is a perilous new low. Kommersant sources said that the changes will affect the military liaison mission of the North Atlantic alliance in Moscow, aimed at promoting the expansion of the dialogue between Russia and NATO. However, in recent years there has been no de facto cooperation. And now, as Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has announced, the activities of the military liaison mission will be suspended. The accreditation of its personnel will be canceled on November 1.

NATO told RIA Novosti news service on Monday that it regretted Moscow's move. Meanwhile, among Western countries, Germany was the first to respond. "It would complicate the already difficult situation in which we are now and prolong the "ice age," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

"Lavrov said on Monday, commenting on the present and future of relations between Moscow and the North Atlantic Alliance, "If this is the case, then we see no great need to continue pretending that any changes will be possible in the foreseeable future because NATO has already announced that such changes are impossible.

The suspension of activities of the Russian Permanent Mission to NATO, as well as the military liaison and information mission in Russia, means that Moscow and Brussels have decided to "draw a final line under the partnership relations of previous decades," explained Andrei Kortunov, director-general of the Russian Council on Foreign Affairs, "These relations began to form in the 1990s, opening channels for cooperation between the sides … but they have continued to steadily deteriorate over recent years."

Kortunov believes the current rupture was promoted by Brussels. "A new strategy for NATO is being prepared, which will be adopted at the next summit of the alliance, and the previous partnership with Russia does not fit into its concept anymore."

The existence and expansion of NATO after the end of the Cold War was the main reason for the destruction of the whole complex of relations between Russia and the West. Today, Russia is paying particular attention to marking red lines related to the further steps of Ukraine's integration into NATO. Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov previously stated this, warning that in response to the alliance's activity in the Ukrainian direction, Moscow would take "active steps" to ensure its security.

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