Turkey’s "Hijab Problem" Used as Leverage on Ruling Party

Politics Materials 26 September 2008 13:07 (UTC +04:00)

Azerbaijan, Baku, 25 September/ Trend , corr B. Hasanov, U. Sadigova/ Ban for women with hijab (head cover) to enter higher schools in Turkey is motivated by the judicial point of view, but this problem is also used as a leverage on the ruling Justice and Development Party (JDP).

"There are political forces in Turkey who want to put pressure on ruling party lobbying for further ban on wearing hijab," Ali Bulach, well-known Turkish reformist said to Trend .

Students wearing hijab were not allowed to Bogazichi University of Turkey at the order of a rector. After short resistance with security service, students entered university and protested against the ban, Cihan news agency reported on 24 September.

Since the early 1980s, the authorities have begun to put pressure on Islamic forces fearing expansion of their influence. Claiming that religious dress contradicts principles of secular state, women with hijab were banned to enter higher schools and governmental agencies.

In February 2008, JDP passed a draft law to lift a ban on hijab, however, it was canceled because of the suit filed by opposition party in the Constitutional Court. In March 2008, an appeal was made to the Constitutional Court to close down JDP because of its Islamic activities contradicting principles of secularism, but the Court rejected the appeal.

Several opposition forces in the country by putting special emphasis on "hijab problem" want to achieve political dominance over the ruling party. The continuation of a ban on wearing hijab in higher schools will lead to the mass demonstration of protest, Bulach said.

The ban is a violation of civil rights, but it is impossible to solve this problem soon, he said.

"If these students, deprived of a right to receive education because of hijab, join protest demonstrations, this problem can be partially solved. Ban on entering university because of hijab, is nothing rather than discrimination," said lawyer Alif Kosharoglu, director of Istanbul branch of MEZLUMDER, Committee for Protection of Rights of Turkish Women Wearing Hijab.

"The Criminal Code of Turkey includes an article on discrimination and people imposing a ban on wearing hijab, are responsible under this article," Alif Kosharoglu said to Trend by telephone from Istanbul.

Universities are not a place for social organizations, but educational institutions. Religious attributes can pose problems for students to communicate with each other, said Christopher Davidson, professor of the University of Durham and expert-researcher on Near East and Turkey.

" Turkey is a secular state as west countries where religion is a personal matter of everyone. Mixing up secularism, religion and traditions can pave a way for various problems in society," Christopher Davidson said from London by telephone. Turkey's deviating from religious principles can speed up its integration to the European Union, he said.

The ban on wearing hijab in educational institutions and governmental agencies persist not only in Turkey, but also in Tunis.

"It would be wrong to predict consequences of ban on hijab in universities, but this step of the Turkish government should be assessed as willingness to integrate to Europe," Davidson said.

The correspondent can be contacted at: [email protected]