There has been a rift within the CHP over the Muslim headscarf for some time; Kılıçdaroğlu is obviously at odds with his party’s traditional line with his remarks signaling freedom to wear a headscarf. The rift surfaced once again following an invitation to the president’s office for a reception to be held on the occasion of the 87th anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey. The CHP is not in favor of attending the reception since President Abdullah Gül’s wife, Hayrünnisa Gül, who wears a headscarf, will be at the reception. After CHP parliamentary group deputy chairman Muharrem İnce told reporters last Thursday that his party will not participate in the reception, CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu said he does not intend to boycott the reception.
Kılıçdaroğlu’s meeting with journalists and representatives of some NGOs was dominated by the reception controversy. Asked about the CHP’s stance on the reception ahead of the meeting, Cem Foundation head İzzettin Doğan said Turkey should no longer discuss irrelevant issues related to how an individual dresses. Journalists and columnists who attended Kılıçdaroğlu’s meeting also called on Kılıçdaroğlu to attend the reception and contribute to the country’s normalization process.
In the past, two receptions were held, one with spouses and one without, to avoid controversy over the first lady’s headscarf. But this year there will be only one reception -- with the first lady in attendance. In a move to normalize civilian-military relations in Turkey, the newly formed top military brass signaled their intention to be present at the event.
Radikal daily columnist Murat Yetkin recalled Kılıçdaroğlu’s earlier remarks signaling a desire to settle the headscarf ban at universities and called on the CHP leader to be consistent. Posta daily columnist Mehmet Ali Birand also noted that Kılıçdaroğlu would contradict himself if he does not attend the reception. Hürriyet daily columnist Ahmet Hakan warned Kılıçdaroğlu not to make a mistake by not attending the reception because it would be worse than defending the headscarf ban at universities.
Meanwhile, the Taraf daily reported yesterday that CHP Secretary-General Önder Sav was behind the reception rift within the party. The daily said Sav, whose influence on the party is well known, ordered İnce to make a statement to get Kılıçdaroğlu in trouble after he disagreed with Kılıçdaroğlu over an intra-party issue.