Military officers forced to divorce headscarved wives to avoid expulsion

April 18, 2012, Wednesday/ 16:04:00/ ZEYNEP HAŞLAK

While the probe into the Feb. 28 coup entered a new phase with the detention of dozens of military officers last week, new details have emerged about the coup period.

A headscarved wife of a military officer has said that many military officers divorce their headscarved wives on paper in order to avoid expulsion from the military.

The Feb. 28 coup, an unarmed military intervention, forced a democratically elected government to resign in 1997 and introduced a series of harsh restrictions on religious life, with an unofficial but widely practiced ban on the use of the Islamic headscarf. Many military officers were expelled from the military for practicing their religion and others were expelled facing alleged charges of violating military discipline and engaging in reactionaryist activities.

Talking about the difficulties she went through during the Feb. 28 coup, Gülten Erol, who is a lawyer and the wife of a military officer, said that her husband was subjected to unjust treatment because of her headscarf, but that the injustices peaked during the Feb. 28 coup. “I and many of my headscarved friends whose husbands were military officials had to divorce on paper and even had to live in separate places from our husbands. I lived in İstanbul for two-and-a-half years with my children, while my husband lived in Kayseri where he was stationed,” Erol said.

“While I was living in Kayseri with my husband, a group of other military officers' wives sometimes came over unannounced just to check on our lifestyle and to see if we were living religiously,” said Erol.

She continued that after former Kayseri Mayor Şükrü Karatepe was removed from his post during the Feb. 28 process because of his anti-secularist statements, pressure on the headscarved wives of military officers increased a great deal. “After some controversial remarks made by Karatepe, high-ranking military officers warned my husband several times that he should talk me into taking off my headscarf. One day, one of my husband's superior officers came to my husband and said that he had made other military officers convince their wives to take their headscarves off, but my husband was the only one with a headscarved wife. I thought about writing down what I was going through, but our house was not safe to hide such notes in,” she said.

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