Once again the Muslim headscarf has divided Turkey. Hayrunisa Gul, whose husband Abdullah Gul was picked as the ruling party’s choice for President, wears the headscarf. She has never taken it off in public.
If her husband is elected, which is a pretty sure bet, she will be the only first lady in Turkish history to wear Islamic attire at the presidential palace.
For the secularist elite in the country, it is a worrying symbol. But analysts say it is an unavoidable one.
“Turkey must go through this experience,” analyst Tarhan Erdem said. “I can not imagine what will be the consequences. But I do not believe our democracy will be called into question.”
Secularists fear the Guls will subject the Presidency – a secular bastion in the country – to an Islamist influence.
Analysts say Mrs Gul’s insistence on wearing the headscarf is a “going back” on reforms spearheaded by Turkey’s secularist founder President Mustafa Atatürk in the 1920s to encourage women to discard the veil and enter public life.
Turkey’s President is also the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in the country.
It is difficult to imagine a Commander whose wife is veiled, when spouses of army officers are forbidden to wear the headscarf.
This same army is considered a guarantor of the
republican values instituted by Atatürk.
In a recent statement, the Army’s Chief of Staff called for the election of a President who is “devoted to the Republic5;s fundamental values, not just in words but in deeds.”
The same General stated just as firmly the army’s position on the Kurdish guerillas in the north of Iraq.
“An operation in Iraq is necessary,” he said.
The demand raised the pressure on the government, accused before by the military of not being tough enough in the fight against the Kurdish Workers’ Party – the PKK.
The army was in accord with the former President, secularist hardliner, Ahmet Necdet Sezer.
Turkey’s secularist elite is worried what positions his successor will take.