Secular French visitors shocked at repression of scarf

A group of French students accompanied by a professor who came to Turkey to visit university campuses encountered a problem at the entrance to Galatasaray University last week as one student in the group was wearing a headscarf, reports said.

Secular French visitors shocked at repression of scarf
When the headscarved student, a French citizen of Turkish descent, was not allowed into the university, the leader of the group, Professor Paul Dumont, refused to enter and wanted to stay outside with this student.

Seeing the French professor's determined stance, officials at the entrance were forced to allow the entire group to enter; however, the headscarved student was verbally assaulted by some students on campus.

Professor Dumont, a former director of the French Anatolian Research Institute (IFEA), reportedly wanted to tour some universities in İstanbul with his students on a visit from Strasbourg. They first toured Bosporus University without encountering any difficulties, but upon their arrival at Galatasaray University, the headscarved student was told that she could not enter with her headscarf because she was Turkish.

An official named "Miss Dilek" came to the campus' main entrance and talked to the professor. She demanded that his student take off her headscarf. E.İ., 23, who has asked for her name to be withheld, clearly stated that she would not take off her headscarf in order to tour the university. "We could not have imagined such a thing. We first visited Bosporus University and had no problems there," she reportedly told the official in amazement. Then the official was reported to have brusquely said, "Then, what have you come here for?" Following an argument at the entrance, some French students in the group protested the official treatment, saying that they would not enter unless all the students were allowed entry. Dumont insisted that his students enter and tour the university, noting that he was going to stay with his student. Following "shuttle diplomacy between the rector's office and the entrance gate," the entire group was finally allowed onto the campus.

After being briefed on the school by Miss Dilek, the group began its tour of the university, but this time they were exposed to verbal assaults by some administrators and students. "Some professors gave me sinister looks when they saw that I was on campus with my headscarf on," E.İ. said, adding that an administrator called their Turkish guide and sharply rebuked him for showing around a group with a headscarved member. She remarked that her French friends in the group were completely astounded at the treatment she was subjected to even though she was not a Turkish citizen. She also said that a friend of hers in France had decided not to come to Turkey after hearing what she had gone through.

"We are only guests in Turkey," she said, noting that she found this practice totally bizarre and that wearing the headscarf made her neither more nor less intelligent.

Another student in the group, Thomas, said that they were greeted very poorly and rudely at Galatasaray University and stressed that the female official who came to meet them acted in a particularly shocking way. "We had no problems whatsoever at Bosporus University. Prior to our arrival I had heard that there was a law regulating the wearing of the headscarf in Turkey. There may be different interpretations. But they could've told us that much more politely," he said, adding that he was at a loss to understand Miss Dilek's question, "What have you come here for?"

"The way they greeted us at the entrance was not pleasant at all," another student said.

Galatasaray University, founded as a result of an international agreement between Turkey and France, attracts French students who want to study in Turkey or who want to conduct research on Turkey since the language of education at the university is French, making it a main stop for French-speaking students interested in Turkey.

Today's Zaman

Güncelleme Tarihi: 28 Şubat 2008, 12:20