Turkish public servants start wearing headscarf freely

Turkish public servants start wearing headscarf freely

Turkish public servants start wearing headscarf freely

The headscarf ban for public officials has been officially lifted. AA photo

Covered women working as public servants were able to enter their workplaces with their headscarves on yesterday for the first time ever after an amendment guaranteeing the freedom of dress went into effect earlier in the day.

The watershed move, which was announced by the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) government in a “democratization package” on Sept. 30, was the fulfillment of a long-time promise.

Both the lifting of the headscarf ban and the abolition of an oath that was obligatory for primary school students are moves that will serve to normalize the country and bring back the authentic spirit of the Turkish Republic, Erdoğan told a parliamentary group meeting of his ruling party yesterday.

In an apparent response to objections against the move that are based on secularist concerns, Erdoğan said there were “ignorant and exploitative” circles who were attempting to portray each and every step and reform by the government as anti-republican.

Erdoğan said they had fixed imbalances, brought the republic back to its origins, and steadily removed pressures, bans and “cruelties” that had been imposed since the 1940s.

“They have brought Turkey further away from its basic founding principle, while we are bringing our republic back to its origin; we are making the public, in other words the nation, and the republic embrace each other again,” he said.

“Nobody but nobody can see themselves as the sole owner of the republic. [Nobody can] look down in vanity on the individuals of the 76 million and make impositions. The republic is the republic of 76 million. People who are uncovered are the owner of this republic as much as those who are covered.”

Lifting the headscarf ban for public servants fomented debate in the political arena for decades. The general ban on wearing Muslim religious headscarves in government offices and public primary schools had officially continued until yesterday, although the ban was not enforced in universities and was frequently flouted in some workplaces.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu conspicuously chose not to comment on the development in his address to his party’s parliamentary group meeting yesterday.

While Kılıçdaroğlu was delivering his critical remarks over the government’s recently announced democratization package in his address to his lawmakers and party members at the meeting, a party member made a loud comment and said, “Their primary objective was to allow the headscarf for public servants.” Kılıçdaroğlu, however, did not respond to the comment.

For his part, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, who has constantly expressed his support for the lifting of the ban, criticized the government for waiting so long to implement an initiative that could have been instituted much earlier.

“Now the headscarf has come on the agenda once more and been put in the PKK [the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] package,” Bahçeli said at his parliamentary group meeting, referring to the democratization package which his party considers as a concession given to the PKK.

“For us, being annoyed at the headscarf goes against the grain. However, Prime Minister Erdoğan has made the headscarf a cover for the PKK and its own disgraces instead of putting it on the heads of pious women,” Bahçeli said.