Turkey breaks another taboo by including headscarf wearing women as deputies in Parliament

Posted on October 31, 2013


Today’s Zaman



Amid fears that tension in Parliament would rise over several Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies wearing headscarves while attending parliamentary sessions, four headscarved deputies walked into Parliament on Thursday and faced no words of protest or anger from opposition parties, marking the end of a long-standing ban on the wearing of headscarves in the chamber.
Four AK Party deputies, Sevde Bayazıt Kaçar, Gönül Bekin Şahkulubey, Nurcan Dalbudak and Gülay Samancı, announced that they had decided to cover their heads in line with their religious beliefs after performing hajj in Mecca in October. The deputies said they would attend parliamentary sessions with their scarves on because there are no regulations banning the wearing of headscarves in Parliament and Turkey has recently allowed the wearing of headscarves by public employees, except for members of the judiciary and military. These deputies attended Thursday’s session of Parliament while wearing their scarves.

There was a huge crowd in Parliament on Thursday and the press chamber was filled with journalists wanting to report on the historic occasion. Controversial and conflicting statements from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) throughout this week, which hinted that the party may prevent the headscarved deputies from taking part in the parliamentary session, had raised concerns in society on whether Turkey would witness the same treatment received by Turkey’s first headscarved deputy, Merve Kavakçı, in Parliament in 1999.

Amid angry protests and boos, Kavakçı was forced out of Parliament for wearing a headscarf during her swearing-in ceremony.

Bülent Ecevit, the prime minister at the time, addressed the packed assembly, saying, “This is not the place to challenge the state. Inform this woman of her limits!” while half the chamber stood shouting: “Get out! Get out!” to the seated Kavakçı.

Kavakçı left in tears. She was not only dismissed from Parliament but was also stripped of her citizenship. Moreover, the Constitutional Court considered her wearing a headscarf in Parliament as evidence of a violation of secularism in the closure case of her party, the Virtue Party (FP) in 2001.

Yet, Turkish Parliament showed a pro-freedom stance toward headscarved deputies on Thursday, invalidating fears of the repetition of the Kavakçı incident.

Following the beginning of the parliamentary session, deputy group chairmen of each party in Parliament made short speeches in which they expressed their views about the existence of headscarved deputies in Parliament. [Please click here to read the remainder of this article.]