Alan Turing, hailed as the father of modern computers and the man behind the defeat of the most fierce German war machine ‘the enigma’, reportedly committed suicide after persistent ‘gay bashing’ from his colleagues at GCHQ. The horrifying treatment of the genius has long been a dark stain on otherwise one of the most reputed agencies of United Kingdom.
The director of GCHQ has now come forward to offer the long due apology over the horrific treatment of gay people who worked for the agency in the past. Though the list of those discriminated against is long, one name was particularly mentioned, the genius of Bletchley Park, Alan Turing. GCHQ’s director Robert Hannigan offered an unconditional apology over the ban on homosexual people joining the agency. The GCHQ denied any homosexual to serve in the agency, and this policy was in place up until very recently.
Mr. Hannigan stressed upon the fact that agency failed to learn the lessons from the horrific treatment of Turing, and that the continuity of discrimination against homosexuals was totally unfair and a big mistake. He also mentioned one of the agency’s former spies named ‘Ian’, who despite his excellent services to the country was asked to resign in the 1960s, after his sexuality was revealed as being a gay. Mr. Hannigan accepted that Ian was not alone in the matter, and that there were so many such individuals who were unfairly treated simply due to their sexual orientation up until very recently. He carried on suggesting that some people might use the pressures of the Cold War as one of the factors that might have contributed towards this policy of intolerance, however, this does not make it any less horrific and that agency is deeply sorry for its totally unfair and discriminatory conduct.
In his speech, Hannigan stressed that the prejudice and discrimination that prevailed in the society in general and in the ranks of secret service agencies, in particular, caused an irreversible loss to the country since we will never know what Ian and many like him would have gone on to achieve in their careers.
In the recent years, more people have come to understand the level of discrimination Alan Turing and the likes of him had to face while working for the secret services. Thanks to a the movie ‘The Imitation Game’ in which Benedict Cumberbatch brilliantly played the role of Alan Turing, illuminating Turing’s brilliance while also highlighting the ill-treatment of homosexuals in the agency. After successfully breaking the enigma code and turning the tide of the Second World War, Turing was accused of ‘gross indecency’ simply because he had a male lover. In 1952, court ordered Turing to undergo a controversial procedure named ‘chemical castration’, two years later Turing committed suicide.
This long-awaited move by GCHQ has been received by mix emotions and responses from members of public and civil society. This debate before and after the official apology is strengthened by the fact that Alan Turing was only awarded the Royal pardon by the Queen in the year 2013.