Tag Archives: YOK

Turkish Government Intrudes Into College Policy

The most important right possessed by those who teach in universities is the right to decide policies on a college campus. Five members of the Higher Education Board(YOK) of Turkey issued a statement that blasted the chairman of YOK, Professor Yusuf Ziya Ozcan for over-ruling the Board on the issue of can women wear a headscarf while attending university classes. Ozcan issued a directive to university campuses saying women should be allowed to wear the headscarf despite legal issues concerning whether this was allowed.

The issue is not women wearing the headscarf, the issue is who decides campus policy? In a free university where all ideas are discussed, and in which the faculty make final decisions, the government should not be allowed to decide policy. Today, it is the headscarf, but what about tomorrow?

Turkish Headscarf Debate Goes On

The controversy over being allowed to wear a headscarf in college began in the 1960s when Hatice Babacan was expelled from Ankara University because she insisted on wearing the veil. The controversy became mor intense in the 1980s when political Islam began to become more prominent in Turkish political life. Several center-right governments like that of Turgut Ozal, tried to allow legalize wearing of the headscarf in universities only to be over-ruled by the Constitutional Court which regarded itself as a bastion protecting secular rights. To date, the ban on headscarfs in universities is not based on a piece of legislation, but on a Constitutional Court decision. Secularists have made the headscarf an issue that is central to their beliefs that Turkey must remain a secular nation and not allow religious authorities to determine the daily lives of citizens. In 1998, the military drove out Prime Minister Necmeddin Erbakan because of his supposed Islamic views. Since then, the Higher education Board (YOK) has been a watchdog protecting secularism within universities.

As of this point, the Islamic Justice and Development Party of Prime Minister Erdogan and President Gul has carefully adhered to a strict policy of respecting secular rights. As secularists gain confidence their human rights will not be abridged, it might be possible to loosen somewhat the ban on headscarfs.