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.
    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

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora