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

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid