Erdoğan to use headscarf ban in referendum campaign

Erdoğan to use headscarf ban in referendum campaign

When I mentioned the European Court of Justice’s March 14 ruling that companies can ban headscarves and other religious symbols in the workplace, one cabinet minister told me: “This is Europe’s Feb. 28,” referring to Turkey’s Feb. 28, 1997 “post-modern coup” era when similar decisions prevailed. 

The ruling came after two women were fired because they refused to take off their headscarves at their workplaces in France and Belgium. They appealed their firing at the court, which ultimately ruled that companies are able to ban employees for wearing the Islamic headscarf. 

This ruling comes a month before Turkey is holding a referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system. It also comes at a time when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been harshly criticizing the ban on Turkish ministers imposed by European countries, primarily Germany and the Netherlands. 

He will now be able to process two subjects during the referendum campaign period: The Holland scandal and the headscarf animosity. 

Although the political discourse is harsh, in Ankara rather calculated attitude dominates. During this week’s cabinet meeting, the Netherlands scandal was discussed in depth. Each minister brought forward a list of sanctions related to their field that could be imposed on the Netherlands. After three hours of serious debate, a number of decisions were made to show the state’s determination and to protect the nation’s rights. 

Government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş announced four steps to be taken in the first stage.

Before anything else, it was decided that the climate in the Netherlands after the March 15 election should first be observed. If it continues with the same stance, then a second stage of sanctions will be introduced. Among them, a ban on Dutch firms for public investment projects may be on the table. 

The course of the Dutch crisis depends on the outcome of elections in the Netherlands. If Geert Wilders emerges strengthened, other racist leaders will queue up to congratulate him.  

When the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party made progress recently in Germany, the first to congratulate them was France’s National Front leader Marie Le Pen, followed by Austria’s racist leader Heinz Christan Strache. After all, a racist party achieving success in one country in Europe is a source of motivation for others. Unfortunately, there are six elections in Europe this year and racist parties seem to be on the rise. 

In its latest crisis with Europe, Turkey is still observing the effects of last year’s failed coup attempt. 

After July 15, at a session of the Dutch Parliament, Wilders said, “Unfortunately, the coup attempt failed.” He did not only say this, he also said that “A military regime would be better than the Erdoğan regime.” 

Don’t these words sound familiar to you? Those “Dutchmen” among us are saying the same thing, are they not? “The real coup has been carried out by Erdoğan and it is still continuing.” 

Obviously, the wind was taken out of Wilders’ sails on July 15. Now, the April 16 referendum will be the closing of the parenthesis opened on July 15.