57 women join hands to call for freedom to wear headscarves

57 women join hands to call for freedom to wear headscarves

Sociologist Nilüfer Göle (Photo: Today's Zaman, Usame Arı)

July 02, 2013, Tuesday/ 12:27:00

Fifty-seven women, including journalists, artists, academics and politicians who don't wear headscarves, have created a petition calling for the complete freedom to wear a headscarf in Turkey.

The petition, titled “End injustice: We want a solution, not postponement!,” says: “The biggest victims of the politics that marked Turkey's last 20 years on the Muslim-secular axis have always been women. We oppose every kind of practice that creates inequality for women who wear headscarves. We demand the removal of all legal and non-legal obstacles that impede headscarved women's employment in the public sector and election into general and local offices. We don't make any distinction between those receiving a public service and those offering one.”

Some circles claim that if a woman wears a headscarf while providing a public service, this could cast a shadow over her impartiality. So a headscarf ban should remain for those providing public services.

The petition calls on all political parties inside and outside Parliament to take immediate and unconditional action in order to change legislation that prevents headscarved women from enjoying their rights.

Immediately after it was posted online, the petition received more than 2,000 signatures.

Journalists Amberin Zaman, Balçiçek İlter, Pınar Öğünç, Hale Gönültaş; sociologist Nilüfer Göle; and academics Yasemin İnceoğlu, Hale Akay and Yeşim Burul are among the signatories of the petition.

Turkey's ban on headscarves dates back to the 1980s. After the 1980 coup d'état, a regulation clearly defined the permissible clothing and appearance of staff working in state offices, including the stipulation that the hair of civil servants must be uncovered. Women who wear headscarves were then denied the right to be employed by the state.

The ban was significantly tightened after Feb. 28, 1997, when the military ousted a government it deemed too religious. Currently, state offices do not hire women who wear a headscarf. Covered women are also denied employment at most private companies despite the fact that there is no law that prohibits the wearing of a headscarf in private businesses. Nor are headscarved women elected to Parliament. A ban on headscarves imposed for many years on university campuses was only removed in 2010.

In remarks to the Radikal daily on Tuesday, İnceoğlu said she signed the petition because she believes headscarved women have always been the victims of discrimination and alienation.

“I signed the petition not only to remove obstacles in front of women who the government addresses as ‘my headscarved citizens,' but also for their representation in politics,” she said.

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