Ankara lifts headscarf ban in sporting events

Ankara lifts headscarf ban in sporting events

Ankara lifts headscarf ban in sporting events

Selvanur Akkan says she lost motivation because she was forced to remove her headscarf during a match in the Central Anatolian province of Konya. DHA photo

Turkish Sports and Youth Minister Suat Kılıç has expressed his backing for the recent overturn of a ban on headscarves in sporting events, calling the prohibition “backward and primitive” during a speech at a Justice and Development Party (AKP) event in Samsun.

“We do not wish to have practices so backwards and primitive like having our female athletes disqualified, or escorted outside [because they wear headscarves],” Kılıç said.

The ban, which made headlines when 17-year-old Selvanur Akkan allegedly lost her karate match amid emotional distress after she was told to remove her headscarf in accordance with existing rules, was recently abrogated by the ministry through a direct order to federations.

Akkan was competing in a European karate competition in the Central Anatolian province of Konya when she was prevented from competing in her headscarf. She removed the covering and returned to the match but lost to her opponent due to what she cited as low morale stemming from the incident. The ministry’s statement not only instructed federations to overturn the ban, but further threatened disciplinary punishment against federations that continue implementing the prohibition. “We want our young women to show themselves in sports as much as our young men,” Kılıç was quoted as saying. “We want them out of the house, and we want them as elite athletes, proudly representing our country here and abroad.”

Kılç said the initial steps against the practice were taken by the 2012 London Olympics committee, when the committee decided to ease a headscarf ban during the Games.

FIFA, too, overturned its own headscarf ban in summer 2012, allowing women with headscarves and hijab to compete as football players. The ban was put into practice in 2007. The United Nations also supported the overturn.

“Such steps will allow women in Islamic countries to appear more frequently and to contribute better to their country’s performance,” Kılıç said.