The headscarf issue should no longer be on the political agenda, says President Gül
Turkish President Abdullah Gül arrives in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he traveled to attend to the third Turkey-Britain Tatlı Dil (Silver Tongue) Forum. AA photoThe debate on the headscarf should be removed from the Turkish political agenda after female lawmakers wearing veils were allowed to attend the Parliament’s General Assembly this week, Turkish President Abdullah Gül told reporters on late Nov. 1 in Edinburgh, where he was attending the third Turkey-Britain Tatlı Dil (Silver Tongue) Forum.
Gül, who thanked all political parties with parliamentary groups before leaving Turkey after lawmakers wearing headscarves attended a Parliamentary session for the first time on Oct. 31, responded to journalists’ questions in a press briefing held while in Edinburgh.
“The most satisfying thing for everyone is that this issue was brought to a conclusion with a common understanding from all all political parties with parliamentary groups. Each political party has discussed it internally and decided that so it should be. This is what we in fact call normalization,” Gül said.
Four female lawmakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) entered a General Assembly meeting in Parliament on Oct. 31, without any major resistance from the opposition. Their attendance marked a first since the then Virtue Party (FP) lawmaker Merve Kavakçı was expelled from the General Assembly in 1999 for wearing a headscarf.
“We have spoken with [the British daily] Guardian shortly before. We told them that there is a considerable Turkish community presence across many European countries. To my knowledge, there are one or two elected headscarved lawmakers in a couple of parliaments in Europe. So, if there are [headscarved] lawmakers in those countries, why shouldn’t it be the same in Turkey? Formerly when [wearing headscarves] was allowed at universities in Paris or London, it was forbidden in Turkey,” Gül said.
“Those were abnormal things. It is important that they were [solved] naturally. This will be beneficial if it is realized without adding other meanings to it. Otherwise, it would be controversial. That’s why it is considered important that all political parties have reached a common understanding.”
Responding to a journalist who asked a question on whether it is possible to say that the headscarf issue is no longer a problem, Gül responded in the affirmative.
“That’s my opinion. This [matter] should be left alone. It should no longer be a political issue. When talking about normalization, the parties have realized it and decided it to be [this way]. I think that with the latest developments, it has ceased to be a political issue,” Gül said.
“From now on, in any profession or in politics women should be assessed based upon their success and value in their fields, and nothing else. Then one may wear a headscarf and the other may not, these are individual realities. Besides, there was no such problem in a country like Turkey previously. Inside families, love wasn't shown on the basis that a [woman] wore a headscarf or not.”
Gül reiterated that the matter should not be discussed further when noted by a journalist that women wearing headscarves cannot enroll into the Police Department or the army. “The matter is closed. It should be left alone,” he said.
As it can be seen, what President Gül repeated the most, as a person who himself and his family had problems due to the headscarf issue, was that “the matter was closed.” Gül did not even want to comment further when asked about his role during the Merve Kavakçı incident in 1999. For those who want to learn a lesson, his reaction may be interpreted as a message of “nobody should rake this matter up.”
Presidential award to Kaya ‘objective’ decision
Gül also explained how the decision of posthumously granting the Presidential Grand Art and Culture Award to the late Kurdish singer Ahmet Kaya was taken.
“We have a delegation where all the potential awardees’ names are discussed. A short list is made and brought to me. Then I suggest them [names] to include in the list. So it does not happen when myself or someone else say ‘let’s give the award to this person or that person.’ We try to be the most inclusive and objective possible,” Gül said.
“[Kaya’s name] was proposed to me. I can understand his Turkish songs, he’s very skillful in appealing to everyone’s emotions,” he added.
Kaya became the target of a smear campaign after announcing that he would sing a Kurdish song in his next album, during an award ceremony in 1999.
“Everyone is ashamed by what has been done, aren’t they. We were abnormal back then, weren’t we? So, those who participated in such [campaigns] back then have only harmed themselves,” Gül said.
Along with Kaya, the renowned economist Daron Acemoğlu, a Turkish citizen of Armenian origin was also among the recipients of this year’s award. “His book is a very important book. I also knew him from before,” Gül said about Acemoğlu.
‘Spying on allies disgraceful’
President Abdullah Gül has also commented on the latest reports of covert U.S. surveillance in Europe, emphasizing that it was unacceptable for such spying to occur between allies.“[Surveillance] was one of the mostly used methods during the Cold War. And today, there is no doubt that information technology has become cutting-edge. But the main problem here is that, this instance [of spying] on allies leads to a very shameful and embarrassing situation. As a matter of fact, it’s disgraceful,” Gül said.
Gül also said that he had no knowledge that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was monitoring Turkey. “To our knowledge, there is no such thing. But, speaking of the internet, we all use these devices. Where are the centers, the servers, who controls them? Aren’t these things publicly known?”
Gül explained that he had conveyed his concerns on the issue to representatives from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) when they visited him last year. “We told them ‘this is no different to the five permanent United Nations Security Council members.’ If there is not a new reliable structure, China and Russia and others can leave. They are also concerned about it, and this is why we are open and transparent... But there is a reality. I don’t want to say that there is such potential but these events have shaken trust [among allies],” Gül said, adding that Turkey will take precautions.
“No doubt, there are measures that are taken by our institutions when dealing with state affairs. But due to the advancement of technology, everyone knows that some things can be done easy. We discuss state issues in protected environments with safeguarded telephones. Beyond that, we are of course using an instrument that is used by everyone. So we have to be prudent when it comes to state affairs,” Gül said.