The petition, drafted by Professor Fuat Keyman of Koç University and Professor Cengiz Aktar of Bahçeşehir University and posted on www.petitiononline.com/turban/petition.html in Turkish, has already been signed by many academics, including such prominent figures as Professor Mithat Sancar, Professor Ahmet İnsel, Professor Mehmet Altan and Professor Fatmagül Berktay.
In the petition Keyman and Aktar defend the expansion of all freedoms and democracy, as opposed to polarization.
"It holds true, and we assert today, as we have always done, that denying an 18-year-old girl who has successfully graduated from high school and who has done well on the university [entrance] exam entry into universities because of her choice of dress is compatible neither with the principle of the right to education, individual rights and freedoms, the principle of secularism, nor with the democratic system," the petition reads.
The professors assert that the headscarf solution created by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is a dangerous formula devised to expand the freedom of a certain segment of society. "We see no direct cause and effect relation between freedom for the headscarf and the abrogation of secularism. However, on the other hand, we find dealing with headscarf freedom as the right of a group beyond individual educational rights [to be] harmful," they stress.
The ongoing debate totally disregards the relationship between freedom and democracy, the principle that the boundaries of freedoms are adjacent to one another and the religious, ethnic, sexual, lexical and cultural multi-dimensional structure of freedoms in a modern society, Keyman and Aktar remark, adding that "the understanding that plainly pigeonholes those citizens concerned with the method with which the ban is being removed, saying, 'If you are not on my side, then you are from them,' is unacceptable."
"We, the people concerned with polarization in the society and in universities running the risk of becoming more prevalent, think that a third path that will promote social reconciliation and dialogue in the debate on the headscarf freedom in institutions of higher learning is needed," they emphasize.
It is further underscored in the petition that the government can be credible only if it adopts a pluralist approach to the issue of rights and freedoms and that only with such an approach can it help different segments of society look comfortably to the future.
"Only on such healthy ground can the headscarf problem can be discussed in society with rights and freedoms secured in the broadest fashion and without suffering the fear of a regime change."
In a statement made to news station NTV, Keyman emphasized that a third path that would create an atmosphere for more democratic discussion was sorely needed. "Unless we have a third path, we think there will be serious confusion in the Constitution as well as on the part of university rectors over how to treat covered students," Keyman said.
He also noted that they had drafted the petition to address and allay all present anxieties, adding: "There are many academics irritated by the method of the AKP-MHP alliance and who approach the issue from the perspective of rights and liberties while maintaining their distance from those who reduce the issue of freedom to the headscarf and also those who reduce the problem to a merely secular issue."
Keyman remarked that rectors' attitude toward headscarved students would now be very important. "If the decisions are made as a result of a democratic conciliation and on a ground of democratic discussions, this would help rectors to make their decision with greater ease as well as promote a more peaceful atmosphere."