News / Europe

Four Turkish MPs to Attend Parliament in Head Scarves

FILE - Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (not pictured) cheer as he addresses the members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at Turkish parliament in Ankara.
FILE - Supporters of Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan (not pictured) cheer as he addresses the members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at Turkish parliament in Ankara.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Four female lawmakers from Turkey's Islamist-rooted ruling party plan to wear their Islamic head scarves in parliament on Thursday in a challenge to the country's secular tradition.
 
The last time a lawmaker attempted to wear the head scarf in parliament in 1999 she was expelled from the assembly.
 
“We do not know how they will react but we are going to enter parliament with our head scarves and continue our work,” Nurcan Dalbudak, one of the four Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers, told Reuters.
 
“We are going to witness the start of an important era and we will play the leading role, we will be the standard-bearers, this is very important,” she said.
 
The head scarf is an emotive symbol in Turkey, viewed by secularists as the emblem of political Islam and its appearance in public life as an affront to the Turkish Republic's secular foundations set up by founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
 
While there are no specific restrictions on wearing the head scarf in parliament, opposition from secularists as well as a ban in other state institutions, which was lifted this month, have previously deterred women from wearing them.
 
Dalbudak and fellow AKP lawmakers Sevde Beyazit Kacar, Gulay Samanci and Gonul Bekin Sahkulubey were expected to attend the general assembly later on Thursday wearing their head scarves.
 
Turkey's main opposition and secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) has said it will contest the move.
 
“All our members are in agreement, that is, we think the AKP is exploiting religion. We will never remain silent towards actions aimed at eliminating the principle of secularism,” CHP lawmaker Dilek Akagun Yilmaz told Reuters.
 
She said the party had agreed to show their opposition in a “graceful” manner, and it is unlikely parliament will witness a repeat of the chaotic scenes from 1999 when Merve Kavakci, an MP from the Islamist Virtue Party, a predecessor of AKP, wore her head scarf to a swearing-in ceremony.
 
Bulent Ecevit, the prime minister at the time, addressed the packed assembly, saying: “This is not the place to challenge the state. Inform this woman of her limits!”, while half the chamber stood shouting: “Get out! Get out!” to the seated Kavakci.
 
The assembly was adjourned and Kavakci was forced to leave the chamber without taking her oath. She was later stripped of her Turkish citizenship after she was found to have taken dual American citizenship without informing the authorities.
 
The Virtue Party was closed down in 2001 for violating the secularist articles of the constitution and several lawmakers, including Kavakci, were banned from politics for five years.
 
Nazli Ilicak, then a fellow Virtue Party lawmaker who was sitting next to Kavakci in parliament before she was expelled, welcomed the AKP MPs' decision and said she did not expect a repeat of 1999.
 
“This is a positive development. I don't think there will be similar scenes to the Kavakci incident. People are now a little embarrassed about what they did in the past,” Ilicak said.
 
Fault line
 
The lawmakers' announcements come only weeks after the AKP lifted a decades-old ban on women wearing the head scarf in state institutions as part of a package of reforms the government says are meant to improve democracy.
 
But the debate around the head scarf goes to the heart of tensions between religious and secular elites, a fault line in Turkish public life.
 
Restrictions on head scarves at universities have already been eased under the AKP and critics of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan point to this and other policies such as restrictions the sale of alcohol as proof his party is seeking to erode the secular order of the republic built on the ruins of an Ottoman theocracy by Ataturk in 1923.
 
Supporters of Erdogan, whose wife also wears the head scarf, particularly in Turkey's pious Anatolian heartlands, say the Turkish leader is simply redressing the balance and restoring freedom of religious expression to a Muslim majority.
 
Erdogan called on lawmakers to respect the decision.
 
“There is no by-law in parliament that prevents this and everyone must respect the decision taken by our sisters on this subject. They have been elected by the nation and are representatives of the nation in parliament,” he said.
 
Some opponents have criticized the timing of the decisions, saying they were aimed at garnering support ahead of an election cycle, an accusation dismissed by Dalbudak who said it had been based solely on personal belief.
 
“I am very happy and proud because I am completing one of the foremost duties required of me. I am experiencing an inner peace because of this,” she said. “This has nothing to do with investing in an election.”

You May Like

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Egyptian Court Jails 23 Pro-Morsi Supporters

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials say gunmen have killed two members of the country's security forces More

Pakistani Journalists Protest Shooting of Colleague

Hamid Mir, a host for private television channel Geo, was wounded after being shot three times Saturday, but is expected to survive More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid