TURKEY tr-national

YÖK head gives guarantee to all Turkish students on headscarves

ANKARA- Hürriyet Daily News | 10/13/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Female students dismissed for wearing headscarves in university classes should contact the country’s top education board, its head said.

Female students dismissed for wearing headscarves in university classes should contact the country’s top education board, its head said, but guaranteed at the same time that students without headscarves would not be pressured to cover themselves.

“You cannot tell anyone, especially a female student over the age of 18, how to dress. This is humiliating for them,” Higher Education Board, or YÖK, head Yusuf Ziya Özcan said Wednesday during a ceremony marking the start of the academic year at Bursa’s Faruk Saraç Vocational School.

Answering journalists’ questions about headscarves in universities, Özcan cited a few examples of cases where students wearing headscarves had been banned from class.

“It is possible that such small incidents do take place. But students need to come to YÖK with their complaints. If they do this, we will do our part,” he said. “For starters, this is a matter of the right to an education. No one can take that away.”

The next step, according to Özcan, is for political leaders to come together and reach a consensus on the issue and then inform the public.

The YÖK head also addressed concerns that easing restrictions in universities would put pressure on women to cover up, paving the way to lift a similar ban in secondary education institutions and government offices.

“I give my personal guarantee,” said Özcan. “Just as we made it possible for students wearing headscarves to enter class, students who do not wear headscarves will also be under our protection.”

In 2008, Özcan sent a directive to university rectors instructing them to allow female students to wear headscarves in the classroom.

In the same year, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, attempted to end a decades-long ban on the headscarf in universities but the Constitutional Court ruled that lifting the ban would damage the nation’s secular system, which is defined in the second article of the Constitution.

In a seeming contradiction of the Constitutional Court ruling of 2008, YÖK notified Istanbul University earlier this month that instructors would no longer be able to take disciplinary action against students so garbed.

The board’s move, which came amid renewed debate between the ruling party and the main opposition over the issue, was a response to a case dealing with a headscarf-wearing student who had been dismissed from class at Istanbul University’s Cerrahpaşa Medical Faculty.

When the student’s complaint eventually reached YÖK, the board announced students could no longer be removed from class for being “in violation of discipline regulations” for wearing a headscarf.

YÖK also said an investigation would be launched into any instructor who dismisses a student for this reason.

The board’s decision was circulated to all academics by the Istanbul University Rector’s Office, essentially giving a green light for headscarves in classrooms at public universities.

According to regulations, an instructor will only have the authority to take note of the incident and report it to the dean.



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