Gül approves reform package to lift scarf ban

President Abdullah Gül yesterday approved a constitutional package that will lift a long-standing ban on headscarves at universities.

Gül approves reform package to lift scarf ban

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government, backed by the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), passed a bill on Feb. 9 amending Articles 10 and 42 of the Constitution to lift the ban, which was first practiced at Turkish universities in the early 1990s. The vote resulted in 411 votes for headscarf freedom and 103 against.

A statement released by the president's office yesterday noted that the reform package aimed at strengthening equality before the law in receiving education and that the amended articles did not pose a threat to the basic principles of the Turkish Republic. Referring to the approval of the reform package by 411 deputies, the statement said it amounted to approval by 80 percent of the population and that different public surveys showed that the public want this ban to be lifted.

The statement noted that the president understands the concerns among some circles over removal of this ban and finds it essential to ease the concerns of these circles over the implementation of headscarf freedom.

The passage of the reform package in Parliament disturbed secular circles, particularly the Republican People's Party (CHP), which vowed to take the package to the Constitutional Court if it is approved by Gül.


Professor Ergun Özbudun, an expert on constitutional law who has been instrumental in drafting a new constitution, has said Turkey will probably not reach agreement on the issue of headscarves in the country even if the subject is debated for many years to come.

Participating in a conference held yesterday in Berlin to compare Turkey's new draft constitution with those of European countries, Özbudun said the opposition in Turkey has adopted a tough stance against the abolition of a long-standing headscarf ban, adding he does not think Turkey's headscarf problem will be settled even if the parties debate it for years.

"Turkey has more serious problems than the headscarf issue, but the opposition has a tough stance against it. I don't believe the parties can reach agreement over the elimination of the headscarf ban on university campuses in the near future. But we cannot discuss it for years," he said.

Underlining that wearing a headscarf is an individual freedom, Özbudun noted that he could not understand why certain circles reacted very harshly against abolishing the ban. "A measure adopted by Parliament to allow covered students on university campuses has sparked unnecessary disagreement and polarization in society," said Özbudun.

He also said a minority group in Turkey claims the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has a secret agenda and aims to establish an Islamic state in Turkey.

"If we were commissioned the task of drafting a civil constitution by the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), then they would applaud our efforts exerted to pen a democratic constitution. The reason the draft constitution has been criticized so harshly is because the AK Party asked us to write it. Turkey is in the middle of ideological conflict. We need to understand one another better. Everyone should understand well that Turkey has no route other than democratization," noted Özbudun.

Source: Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 23 Şubat 2008, 09:51