Saime Akar: How a woman from conservative southeast Turkey became a referee

The story of Saime Akar is the story of how a woman from conservative southeast Turkey became the first professional referee from her region. The 25-year-old referee is ambitious and wants to reach the Turkish Super League as a referee.

She’s working hard to achieve that in the men’s world of eastern Turkey. “I’m not afraid of the players taking me seriously or even insulting me”, she told European Journal from Deutche Welle. Saime Akar is the first licensed female referee in eastern Turkey. She was born in a town close to the Iranian border. Akar went to university and is now back in her region as gym teacher in a neighbouring city.

The documentary I embedded below shows some skeptical men in in the stands when she’s referee a 2nd Division game in her hometown. Near the eastern border of Turkey, people are very conservative and not used to women leading a football game or making decisions. In the video you’ll see a young kid who says that he’ll never allow his mother or sister to be amongst 22 men on a football pitch.

Akar is a role model for females in that part of Turkey. Not many women are out on the streets in that region. Most of them stay at home and be a housewife. A friend of her, Reyhan Bercelan, supports her. “Why shouldn’t women referee men’s matches? Ofcourse they can!”

Akar’s father never dreamed she’d be a referee one day. But as little girl she was very active. Her father never forbid her to do things men usually do. “We supported her.”

Watch the interesting documentary in English about Saime Akar.

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