Erdogan wants to change the constitution: the dispute over the headscarf ban in Turkey is intensifying

In Turkey, headscarves are banned when working in the public sector and at school.

Erdogan wants to change the constitution: the dispute over the headscarf ban in Turkey is intensifying

In Turkey, headscarves are banned when working in the public sector and at school. Erdogan wants to overturn the ban - and is even considering changing the constitution to do so. This means that the headscarf debate is heating up again shortly before the forthcoming election campaign.

While in Iran people are protesting against the obligatory veil at the risk of their lives, politicians in neighboring Turkey are arguing about the right to wear a headscarf at work or at school. The Islamic-conservative ruling party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has now introduced a draft for a corresponding constitutional amendment in parliament. The headscarf controversy could become one of the most important issues in the forthcoming election campaign.

This means that a debate is in full swing in Turkey that the founder of the state, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, wanted to end once and for all at the beginning of the 20th century by banning the headscarf from public service and education. During his 20-year tenure as head of government and state, Erdogan championed the rights of conservative Muslims, including veiled women, after decades of more secular rule.

The AKP relaxed the headscarf ban step by step from 2008 and allowed the veil to be worn again, first at universities and schools, then in the public sector, in parliament and finally also in the police force.

Parliament is expected to discuss the proposed constitutional amendment in the second half of December. Erdogan, who is running for president again in June despite dwindling support, is even considering holding a referendum on the headscarf issue.

But it was his likely challenger in the election, opposition leader of the social democratic party CHP, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who was the first to revisit the issue. He admitted that the CHP - Atatürk's party - had "made mistakes in the past" on the headscarf ban. To reassure conservative circles, Kilicdaroglu announced that if elected, he would enshrine in law the right to wear a headscarf.

"Is there discrimination against veiled or unveiled women in schools or in public service? No!" Erdogan countered. "It was we who achieved that." With the planned constitutional amendment, the AKP is going one step further.

The great majority of Turkish women welcomed the lifting of the headscarf ban, says historian and women's rights activist Berrin Sönmez. "Those who see the headscarf as a religious symbol that contradicts the principles of secularism should understand that their thinking is discriminatory," says Sönmez, who wears a headscarf herself. "The headscarf only violates women's rights when the rules for wearing it are imposed by the state."

Sönmez estimates that around half of Turkish women wear a headscarf. In the last survey in 2012 it was 65 percent. The historian is convinced that women would benefit if the right to wear a headscarf at work or at school were guaranteed. "Kilicdaroglu's proposed law is an important step in putting obstacles in Erdogan's way," says Sönmez, an opponent of the president.

Turkish feminists see Erdogan's move as an attempt to secure the support of the most conservatives in predominantly Sunni-Islamic Turkey. "Both the secular headscarf ban and its lifting were initiated in the name of women's emancipation. In reality, in both cases attempts were made to impose their own vision of the ideal woman," writes Gönul Tol, director of the Turkey program at US think tank Middle East Institutes.

"The lifting of the headscarf ban symbolizes Erdogan's broader Islamist-populist agenda," she criticizes. "He never really wanted to liberate women, whether they wear a headscarf or not. For him, women are just mothers or wives, not individuals."

Yorum yapabilmek için üye girişi yapmanız gerekmektedir.

Üye değilseniz hemen üye olun veya giriş yapın.

NEXT NEWS