In a legal ruling with widespread implications, Turkey’s government has been thwarted in its bid to allow Muslim headscarves to be worn in universities. The governing AK Party argues the current ban infringes women’s personal and religious freedom. But in court, the secular opposition successfully challenged moves to let the scarf through college gates. And its leaders are hailing what they say is an important decision that will set a legal precedent.
Turkey’s top court said lifting the ban would be contrary to three articles in the constitution, including one that specifies Turkey is a secular republic.
On the streets, reaction was mixed.
“In a country walking on Ataturk’s path, this decision should have come a long time ago,” said one woman.
But the judges’ ruling was slammed by a fellow Turkish citizen, wearing a headscarf herself.
“It would be good for the women who wear scarves to go to university,” she said. “They make an effort. They work hard, too. But, with this decision, they will lose their rights. It is not good.”
While its roots are in political Islam, the AK Party denies any suggestion it aims to introduce Islamic law. The ruling is a blow to the party as it faces a separate court case that could see it banned for alleged anti-secular activities.