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Turkey poised to relax headscarf ban in universities

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Turkey poised to relax headscarf ban in universities


Women in Turkey may soon no longer need to remove their Islamic headscarves before entering university if a bill being presented to parliament is passed. The joint plan is being submitted by the country’s two major parties who have enough seats in parliament to overturn the current ban.

Its removal was one of the campaign pledges of Prime Minister Reccep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party before coming to power in 2003.

Both the ruling party and the nationalist MHP party of Devlet Bahceli believe it is a human rights issue.

Under the proposal, women would be allowed to wear scarves at university as long as they tied them under the chin, not those that cover the neck or the face, which are seen as a symbol of political Islam.

The AK Party was re-elected despite massive pro-secular demonstrations last July. The power struggle pitted the AK Party against the secular military elite, which views it with suspicion.

Critics fear the new law could mark a shift towards an Islamisation of Turkish society, with women coming under increasing social and political pressure to cover their heads – like the wives and daughters of prime minister Erdogan and president Abdullah Gul.

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