Closed Doors or Open?

Fenerbahçe S.K. is a football club based in Istanbul; aka the Yellow Canaries. Fenerbahçe are defending league champions in the Turkish Süper Lig. On July 21, 2011, Fenerbahçe’s fans rushed the field in a protest against perceived slights of the team by the media. As you might be aware international football has been plagued with fan violence in recent years and football’s governing bodies have taken steps to punish teams where such violence has taken place. In response to the incident on July 21, the Turkish FF (TFF- Türkiye Futbol Federasyonu) sentenced Fenerbahçe to a closed door match, or that they must play a match with no fans in attendance. The TFF then altered it’s decision to allow only women and children under 12 to attend the match. The match was held September 20th and by all accounts it was a success as over 41,000 women and children filled Şükrü Saraçoğlu Stadium to witness Fenerbahçe draw 1-1 with Manisaspor. To quote the Hurriyet Daily News story: “There were 50,000 canary chirps, 50,000 stories in the stadium. It was so beautiful.”

Initially, there was some conjecture as to whether such an event might be considered illegal under the constitution but such conjecture dissipated and in light of the rousing success of this match Fenerbahçe is moving forward with plans to limit a certain section of the stadium, comprising 470 seats, to women only. From the Guardian: “The match was considered such a success – with a less confrontational atmosphere and generous support for the opposition team – that the club has decided to set up the women-only area for a trial spell.”

Given the conjecture referred to above I thought it would be interesting to look at the Turkish Constitution which states in the General Principles:

Article 10 Equality before the Law

(1) All individuals are equal without any discrimination before the law, irrespective of language, race, colour, sex, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion and sect, or any such considerations.

(2) Men and women have equal rights. The State shall have the obligation to ensure that this equality exists in practice.

(3) No privilege shall be granted to any individual, family, group or class.

(4) State organs and administrative authorities shall act in compliance with the principle of equality before the law in all their proceedings.

The Turkish Constitution also mentions women’s rights in Chapter III – Social and Economic Rights and Duties:

Article 50 Working Conditions and Right to Rest and Leisure

(1) No one shall be required to perform work unsuited to his age, sex, and capacity.

(2) Minors, women and persons with physical or mental disabilities, shall enjoy special protection with regard to working conditions.

(3) All workers have the right to rest and leisure.

(4) Rights and conditions relating to paid weekends and holidays, together with paid annual leave, shall be regulated by law.

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However; this does not mean that equal rights necessarily flourish in Turkey as a Turkish Journalist has pointed out, “…there is not a single woman in the ranks of the Turkish Football Federation and that, of the 18 Turkish Super League clubs, only two have a woman on their boards”. The sections of the constitution mentioned above were inserted in 2004; in 2002 the Turkish Civil Code abolished the supremacy of men in marriage. As Women for Women’s Human Rights (a Turkish NGO) eloquently puts it: “Individuals need to internalize and develop a critical understanding of their rights before they can embrace and exercise them “; (follow the preceding links for more information). Nonetheless, a small step was made in Instanbul last week when Fenerbahçe S.K hosted a unique match.

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