[QODLink]
Europe

Turkey lifts decades-old ban on headscarves

Measure allowing women to sport the Islamic head scarf in state institutions is part of broader package of reforms.

Last Modified: 08 Oct 2013 14:40
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
The measure was hailed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a "step toward normalisation" [AFP]

Turkey has lifted a decades-old ban on headscarves in the civil service as part of a package of reforms by the government meant to improve democracy.

Tuesday's measure was hailed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose wife wears a headscarf, as a "step toward normalisation" and came into effect after it was published in the official gazette.

"We have now abolished an archaic provision which was against the spirit of the republic. It's a step toward normalisation," Erdogan said in a parliamentary speech to his ruling party lawmakers.

"A dark time eventually comes to an end," he said. "Headscarf-wearing women are full members of the republic, as well as those who do not wear it."

The ban, whose roots date back almost 90 years to the early days of the Turkish Republic, has kept many women from joining the public work force.

Critics accuse Erdogan of lifting the ban to force his Islamic values on the majority Muslim but staunchly secular nation.

When plans to remove the ban were first announced last week, the main opposition party labelled it "a serious blow to the secular republic" created by modern Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.

Limited ban remains

Erdogan last week unveiled a package of democratic reforms mostly aimed at improving rights for minority Kurds, but he also used the opportunity to take on the highly controversial headscarf ban.

Female civil servants are now allowed to wear headscarves, while their male counterparts can sport beards. However, the ban remains in place for judges, prosecutors, police and military personnel.

Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) pledged to remove the ban on the wearing of headscarves in all domains when it came to power in 2002. It has already relaxed the ban at universities.

The highly charged debate lies at the heart of Turkey's divisions between religious conservatives, who form the bulk of Erdogan's AKP supporters, and more secular members of society.

In 1999, Turkish-American lawmaker Merve Kavakci arrived in parliament wearing a headscarf for her swearing-in ceremony. She was booed out of the house and had her Turkish citizenship revoked.

In stark contrast, a day after Erdogan's announcement of reforms, President Abdullah Gul's wife wore her headscarf to parliament.

372

Source:
AFP
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.