Headscarved girls demand access to Turk campuses

Turkey has lifted a ban on students wearing headscarves but they are still marching on university gates demanding to be let in.

Headscarved girls demand access to Turk campuses
Turkey has lifted a ban on students wearing Muslim headscarves but covered women are still marching on university gates demanding to be let in.

At Istanbul's Marmara University, a few hundred students in headscarves, trade union members and a handful of schoolgirls protested against university rectors who refused to let covered students into class.

The rectors, part of the secular elite, have said they will not allow covered students into university until a more detailed law on clothing requirements is passed.

"The (rectors) want to go against the government but as a result they're going against all the students," Zeynep Arslan, a 21-year-old final year business student, told at the protest on the Asian side of Turkey's largest city.

Parliament, dominated by the religious-leaning AK Party, passed a constitutional amendment earlier this month to allow university students to wear headscarf. President Abdullah Gul signed it into law last Friday.

The staunchly secular main opposition party CHP challenged the reform in court on Wednesday.

Before Gul approved the reform, the government had urged students not to start wearing the scarf on campus before all necessary laws had been amended.

But the government-proposed head of the Higher Education Board -- traditionally a secularist stronghold -- has told rectors to enforce the constitutional change and since then the government has been quiet on the issue.

Resistance

The AK Party has been trying to lift the ban since it first came to power in 2002, but has faced resistance from the secularists.

The ban which has stopped thousands of women studying dates back to the late 1980s, but was only strictly enforced after the army generals ousted a government in 1997.

"(The new reform) was passed with 411 votes in parliament, the president signed it, but the rectors don't accept it," said Nur Akdag, a 22-year-old international relations student.

"Are the rectors above the president?"

For some final year students the reform is a bittersweet victory after being forced to choose, as they see it, between their religion and an education for years.

Some women have spent their university careers in a wig to avoid showing their hair.

"Every day when I put on my wig I feel miserable," said 21-year-old student Zehra Eren, who plans to study for an MBA outside Turkey, following a path many covered women who can afford to have taken. "I can be free in the U.S. or England."

A handful of uncovered women joined the demonstration at Marmara University, saying they wanted individual rights.

Agencies
Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Şubat 2008, 10:54
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