The staunchly secular military had previously refused to attend state receptions in the presence of women wearing headscarves, pointing to the fact that that politicians’ wives who are covered cannot attend official functions because they are held at state facilities, where wearing the scarf is prohibited. As a result, to avoid tension between the government and the military, politicians’ covered wives have avoided the receptions – until this year. For the previous three years, President Abdullah Gül has even held two receptions to avoid the problem. Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek, who hosted a reception on Monday, said he had invited all the appropriate guests, and when asked to comment on the event he thanked everyone “who came or declined to come.”
Responding to reporters, Prime Minister Erdoğan said that since “the conditions are now appropriate” he and his wife attended the reception together. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has been taking steps to normalize the wearing of the headscarf. Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputies Salih Fırat and Sinan Aygün attended the reception as well as many AK Party deputies, along with their spouses. When asked about the reception, Gül said, “A reception with spouses is normal.” CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who was not present at the reception, told reporters that he attended a children’s choir performance in Ankara instead of going to the reception because he likes to be with children.
Meanwhile, Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) deputies protested the reception and the meetings in Parliament on April 23 on the grounds that a number of BDP deputies are in detention, and also there are children in Turkish prisons. BDP officials said their attitude is not against Parliament but against the ruling party’s practices.