Headscarf Issue Controversy Rocks Turkish Universities

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Turkey is writing a new constitution which apparently will end the ban on women wearing a headscarf in a university. Turkish secularists regard the wearing of a headscarf as a religious statement and seek to continue the secular characteristic of their universities. The Committee of University Rectors issued a statement indicating strong opposition to lifting the ban and threatened to take the case to the European Court Of Human Rights. Professor Ural Akbulut expressed the feelings of many secular educators: “In Libya, there is no law about not covering oneself. However, over 20 years all girls in universities covered themselves due to pressure.” He argued there is no gray area when it comes to secularism.

It is difficult for Americans and many Europeans to grasp the intensity of feeling among Turkish secularists on the issue of a woman wearing a headscarf while attending college. Unfortunately, for members of the AKP who regard the right to wear a headscarf as an issue of personal freedom, there is considerable evidence when the headscarf is allowed, great pressure is exerted on women who do not wear one. Somehow, the AKP has to make it clear the rights of women also pertain to secular females who seek to have control over what they wear.