The decision of several ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies to wear Islamic headscarves after performing hajj (the religious pilgrimage to Mecca) and participate in Parliament while wearing their scarves has put the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) democratic credentials to the test as the party seems confused over how to respond to the development.

Four AK Party deputies, Sevde Bayazıt Kaçar, Gönül Bekin Şahkulubey, Nurcan Dalbudak and Gülay Samancı, announced that they have decided to cover their heads in line with their religious beliefs after performing hajj in Mecca this month. The deputies said they will attend parliamentary sessions with their scarves on because there are no regulations banning the use of headscarves in Parliament and Turkey has recently allowed the wearing of headscarves by public employees, except for members of the judiciary and military. Today these deputies are expected to enter Parliament for the first time while wearing their headscarves.

However, the decision of these deputies has sparked mixed reactions from the CHP, a staunchly secular party, and 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. She left in tears. She was not actually 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.

Fears about repetition of the Kavakçı incident emerged after CHP Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu said earlier this week that his party will try whatever it can to prevent the female deputies of the AK Party from attending the parliamentary session on Thursday while wearing headscarves.

“We will not let this happen. We will protect Parliament. We will protect Parliament’s traditions and stance. The CHP will do whatever is necessary, using all the authority given by parliamentary bylaws,” Loğoğlu said, speaking at a press conference on Monday.

Loğoğlu further stated in separate remarks to Today’s Zaman that all institutions have their own political cultures and traditions, and his party will not let Parliament become the backyard of the ruling party.

“A headscarf is only a symbol of a mindset against secularism,” he noted.

Staunchly secular circles in Turkey see the use of headscarves as a violation of secularism. That is why headscarves were banned at universities until 2010, and it was only last month that the government, in a democratization package announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, made the wearing of headscarves permissible for public employees.

Moreover, when the AK Party wanted to remove the headscarf ban at universities earlier in 2008, the CHP petitioned the Constitutional Court to annul approved constitutional amendments that would allow students to attend universities classes while covered. The court later annulled the amendments, leading to great public disappointment. see more

source: todayszaman