In the 1920s, Kemal Ataturk created the Turkish nation from the debris of the Ottoman Empire, and with it, a secular government which replaced the tyranny of Islamic rule. Now, Prime Minister Recep Erdogan’s campaign to re-Islamize the country is evident in Parliament, where four female lawmakers from Turkey’s Islamist ruling party wore their Islamic headbags, for the first time in over 90 years.
The Guardian (h/t Pavel P) Four female MPs wearing headscarves walked into Turkey‘s parliament in Ankara on Thursday, marking the end of a ban emphatically imposed since the early days of the Turkish Republic.
The issue of where women can wear headscarves remains highly charged in the Muslim-majority country, founded in 1923 under strictly secular principles, but where a public cry for freedom of religious expression is growing louder.
Restrictions on the wearing of headscarves in government buildings were loosened in recent reforms by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, aimed at promoting democracy (HAH!). The ban remains in place for judges, prosecutors and military and security personnel.
The four MPs who took advantage of the relaxed legislation are members of Erdogan’s Justice and Development party, abbreviated as AKP, which has Islamist roots and has gained a strong following.
The reforms have been criticised by many Turks who fear a rise of political Islam, but politicians from the main secular opposition party, CHP, reacted coolly to the appearance of the headscarved MPs.
In 1999 an MP, Merve Kavakci, tried to take her oath wearing a headscarf. The then prime minister, Bulent Ecevit, told MPs to “put this woman in her place”. Kavakci left while some of her colleagues chanted “get out”. Kavakci lost her seat in 2001.