474. This is how many femicides Turkey saw in 2019. Moreover, according to the World Health Organization, 38% of women in Turkey are subject to domestic violence. Against this backdrop, on March 20, a presidential decree announced Turkey's withdrawal from the Council of Europe's Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, the so-called Istanbul Convention.
An "ill-advised decision", as the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović defined it, is a highly delicate moment for human and civil rights in Turkey. In a recent note, Human Rights Watch said that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is dismantling human rights protections and democratic norms on a scale unprecedented in the 18 years he has been in office.
In this light, the support received by the Turkish government in recent times from the most representative athletes of the national soccer team is emblematic. Suffice to think of the collective military salute by the national team's players in the 2019 match against Albania or other occasions when athletes have openly come out in support of Erdoğan's military policies.
But sport can also be at the core of political debate as a matter of dissent and denunciation. Let us think, to remain in the Turkish context, of NBA star Enes Kanter, who is currently risking four years in prison for his dissenting activities.
Enes Kanter is one of the protagonists of "The Righteous of Sport", an educational ebook published by the Gariwo Foundation in 2020, which thousands of students have already consulted. The ebook contains stories from the past and the present that teach how sometimes sport can "save the world", because the behavior of athletes can positively influence democratic life in our societies.
On the social responsibilities of sportsmen and women, Gariwo has also published "The Charter for Sport", a document signed by hundreds of athletes, sports journalists, and groups of fans. The Charter for Sport is the result of a multi-year study by the Foundation on how individual behavior and choices can change history and save lives, especially in the face of dictatorships and crimes against humanity. Hence, inspired by the stories of the Righteous of Sport, Gariwo agreed to Professor Giovanna Grenga's proposal to launch an appeal to UEFA to have the opening match of the European Championships (Italy-Turkey, Friday, June 11 at the Olympic Stadium in Rome) refereed by a woman, possibly assisted by an all-female team.
It would be a symbolic gesture, which would be broadcasted live worldwide (and especially in Turkey), with a powerful impact. After all, the Uefa Commission has already selected Stephanie Frappart, named 2019 best referee by the Globe Soccer Awards, as a support referee among the European Championships referees. What better occasion to see her at work?
To support Gariwo's appeal, you can share it on social media by tagging @uefa, or you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, copying email@example.com.