Turkey's education unions at odds over lifting ban on headscarf

Turkey's education unions at odds over lifting ban on headscarf

Turkeys education unions at odds over lifting ban on headscarf

A veiled teacher in Balıkesir caused an uproar in the country previous week. DHA photo

The lifting of the headscarf ban in public institutions with the recently announced “democratization package” has received mixed reactions from Turkey’s three education unions.

The Education and Science Personnel Union (Eğitim-Sen) has denounced the decision, which will allow female teachers to wear headscarves in schools, for placing the country under a religious theme, while Eğitim-Bir-Sen and Türk Eğitim-Sen welcomed the decision with their separate reservations.

“We do not find it right to bring religious symbols into the public sphere. This will result in placing the country under a religious theme,” said Eğitim-Sen President Ünsal Yıldız yesterday.

“[Allowing the] headscarf will be an obstacle in providing this public service [education]. There will be serious obstacles for students with different religions or sects in receiving this service. They will have serious problems in communicating with teachers [who are wearing the headscarf],” Yıldız told the Hürriyet Daily News.

‘Democracy package’ lifts headscarf ban

In time, some parents will demand teachers without headscarves or vice versa, said Yıldız, referring to the problems awaiting the education system following the recent decision.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the “democratization package” on Sept. 30, which included the removal of the headscarf ban for public servants except prosecutors, judges and military personnel. Ahmet Özer, the deputy secretary-general of the education sector labor union Eğitim-Bir-Sen, however, welcomed the government’s decision to remove the ban but said that it was insufficient for excluding prosecutors, judges, and members of military, who have to wear uniforms.

Özer disagreed with Yıldız saying that there would not be any problems between teachers who wore headscarves and students of different religions, sects or no religion. “There are pious male teachers in schools too. If their presence in the schools causes no problem, why would it be an obstacle when it comes to female teachers?” he asked. He also said that their members had been violating the ban since March upon their call for civil disobedience and met no obstacle. Eğitim-Bir-Sen received 12.3 million signatures last year in a move to remove the ban.

Students’ oath

Türk Eğitim-Sen criticized the democracy package for involving the headscarf issue along with the “controversial” issue. Türk Eğitim-Sen head İsmail Koncuk said yesterday that the removal of the student’s oath and permitting Kurdish language private high schools should not be in the same package as the headscarf. “The demands of the [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK and headscarf issue should not be in the same package. The removal of the headscarf ban is approved by a wide range of society, but the others, such as Kurdish language private high schools are controversial,” Koncuk said.