GÜRKAN ZENGİN

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GÜRKAN ZENGİN
October 09, 2010, Saturday

The headscarf ban should be no more

I think expats in Turkey are having a hard time understanding the existence of this ban in Turkey, which is both a democratic and a Muslim country. Even Christian countries refrain from imposing similar bans due to their attachment to fundamental human rights. They cannot do it.The headscarf ban is a practice that best portrays the weirdness or absurdity in the functioning of the system in Turkey.

The message Turkey is sending to women intending to attend university is clear: If you plan to wear a headscarf, forget about getting a higher education in this country. If you have the money, go abroad for this.

Judges in Turkey have been parroting this message in their “reasoned decisions.” They do not hesitate to twist or distort the Constitution just to reassert this message.

Neither Europe nor the US prohibits headscarved women from getting a higher education. Not a single democratic country that upholds the rule of law imposes such a ban on people intending to attend a university. Some people occasionally, but falsely, say that there is such a ban in France. No, there is no such ban in France. Limitations in that country apply to primary school students, not to university students.

No official in any civilized country can attempt to decide what an adult above the age of 18 should wear. And a person cannot be deprived of his/her right to higher education, a fundamental human right, under such a pretext.

Yes, getting a higher education is a universal human right.

And Turkey denies this right to its own children. Freedom of religion and the right to higher education are not conflicting concepts. Turkey’s identity as a Muslim country cannot be used as a justification for such a ban.

Despite its efforts to school as many children as possible over the last 80 years, Turkey is telling women intending to study, “Do not go to school.” The system in Turkey continues to manufacture crises with every single one of its critical decisions.

With Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu as the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the party has started to show positive signals toward change on some basic issues, but in particular on the headscarf issue. Even if they have come up with a nonsensical proposal, aptly referred to as the “Iranian model,” in which women are required to uncover some part of their head, this implies that they have eventually realized that this ban can no longer be maintained. This is a good development.

We can assume that Kılıçdaroğlu is facing resistance from the party. Still, even the presence of debates is important. Apparently, Turkey has set off on a road to consensus for lifting this ban. Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu must act resolutely because what he is doing is right and the CHP’s pro-freedom attitude will be decisive when it comes to voters’ perceptions about its new position.

Turkey can no longer live with this shame. It will certainly get rid of it.

Lifting the headscarf ban is important not only in terms of fundamental human rights, but also to ensure peace between the state and the nation.

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