ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Members of the AKP attended the parliamentary reception with their veiled spouses. DAILY NEWS photo
Veiled women grabbed the spotlight at a parliamentary reception for April 23 National Sovereignty Day, as lawmakers joined the event with their headscarved wives for the first time, after years of fears that such a move would hurt Turkey’s secular system.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
and his wife, Emine Erdoğan, arrived in the hall holding hands, while many other members of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) attended with their veiled spouses. “The conditions were different previously. We came together this time because conditions are suitable [to appear at the reception in this fashion],” Erdoğan said.
President Abdullah Gül came alone, but also expressed his appreciation. “People are usually invited to such events as couples. Single invitations were not normal. There were some peculiar situations before. But as you see, everything has its time,” Gül said.
Over 30 AKP deputies attended the reception with their wives, some of whom were veiled, while other ministers came alone. Çiçek welcomed the guests with his wife as well.
In another contrast to previous years, the military’s top brass also attended the reception. Gül hailed their presence as “having a very significant meaning,” while Erdoğan said it was “nice.”
“Our army is one of the most important institutions of our state. For this reason, their presence has a very significant meaning. Our people were pleased and honored, I think,” Gül said.
In 2003, the AKP’s first year in power, then-Parliamentary Speaker Bülent Arınç sent invitations for the April 23 reception to all deputies and their wives. The military’s top commanders and the then-leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Deniz Baykal, boycotted the reception on the grounds that freedom for the headscarf in state institutions would erode Turkey’s secular principles. Wary not to raise tensions, AKP lawmakers did not bring their wives at the time and since then, parliamentary speakers had opted to omit wives in their invitations.
The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which shunned all April 23 ceremonies on the grounds that it was meaningless to celebrate when eight lawmakers remained in jail, boycotted the reception.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who attended all ceremonies during the day, skipped the reception and went to a children’s choir concert instead. Only two CHP
deputies, Sinan Aygün and Salih Fırat, attended the event.