[QODLink]
Europe

Turkey women MPs break headscarf taboo

Four female legislators mark the end of the 1920s ban on headscarves by walking into Turkey's parliament head covered.

Last Modified: 31 Oct 2013 20:35
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
PM Erdogan's reformist push has been criticised by Turks fearing the rise of Islam in the secular nation [AFP]

Four female legislators wearing headscarves have walked into Turkey's parliament in Ankara, marking an end to the early 1920s ban on the Muslim symbol imposed in the early days of the Turkish Republic.

Thursday’s symbolic action highlighted an emerging trend in Turkey where the issue of headscarves remains highly sensitive as it is viewed by secularists a sign of political Islam in stark contrast to the republic's strongly secular traditions.

The four MPs  - Sevde Beyazit Kacar, Gulay Samanci, Nurcan Dalbudak and Gonul Bekin Sahkulubey are members of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) which has Islamist roots and has gained a strong following in this nation of 74 million.

AKP legislators declared the ban on headscarves as a civil rights issue that had prevented religious women from expressing themselves freely in Turkish politics.

“I have always said that we overlooked the problem of equality between men and women, but today I think we are finally solving this problem,'' said Oznur Calik, a member of the ruling party.

The issue has continually been a highly contentious and public issue. In 1999, a newly elected member of parliament, Merve Kavakci, tried to take her oath while wearing a headscarf. The left-leaning prime minister at the time, Bulent Ecevit, told MPs to ``put this woman in her place.''

Kavakci left the building while some of her colleagues chanted for her to “get out.'' Kavakci lost her seat in 2001.

The restrictions on headscarves in government buildings were loosened as part of reforms aimed at boosting democracy unveiled by Erdogan in September, but the ban still remains in place for judges, prosecutors, military and security personnel.

The AKP's reformist push has been criticised by Turks fearing the rise of Islam in the official sphere, but legislators from the main secular opposition party, the Republican People's Party, said it had decided not to react to the four MPs' actions.

What women can wear has been a political battleground in both Muslim and non-Muslim countries.

France, meanwhile, in 2011 became the first European nation to ban the public use of face veils, infuriating many Muslims who felt their religious community was being singled out for discrimination.

363

Source:
AFP
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
Your chance to be an investigative journalist in Al Jazeera’s new interactive game.
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Featured
Private citizens take initiative to help 'irregular' migrants, accusing governments of excessive focus on security.
Indonesia's cassava plantations are being killed by mealybugs, and thousands of wasps have been released to stop them.
Violence in Ain al-Arab has prompted many Kurdish Syrians to flee to Turkey, but others are returning to battle ISIL.
Unelected representatives quietly iron out logistics of massive TPP and TTIP deals among US, Europe, and Asia-Pacific.
Led by students concerned for their future with 'nothing to lose', it remains to be seen who will blink first.