President Abdullah Gül thanked the political parties for their contribution to ending the de facto ban on Thursday. “Everyone contributed to this [process of] normalization. I would like to thank them,” Gül said on Friday before departing for Scotland.
Four Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputies, Sevde Bayazıt Kaçar, Gönül Bekin Şahkulubey, Nurcan Dalbudak and Gülay Samancı, walked into Parliament wearing their headscarves on Thursday and faced no acts of protest from opposition parties despite the initial opposing views from prominent CHP figures such as Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu on Monday.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, commenting on the issue to the press late on Thursday, said: “I am very happy today. Many thanks to all the deputies who delivered a speech during the parliamentary session.”
After the press conference, Kılıçdaroğlu met with female deputies from his party at a restaurant in Ankara.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, addressing the nation in a televised speech on Thursday night, touched on recent developments that paved the way for female deputies to attend Parliament while wearing headscarves.
Erdoğan said the move restored a long-suppressed right without privileging a particular group, adding that the government’s recent democratization package ended discrimination against headscarved women in Turkey. The package removed the ban on the wearing of the headscarf in state institutions.
Erdoğan stated that many headscarved women had faced tremendous difficulties in their lives due to the strict ban. He added that his government does not give preferential treatment to headscarved women over those who do not wear a headscarf.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç also commented on the issue, saying that Parliament had passed a test on Thursday. “Parliament showed a maturity that lives up to the attitude of the first Parliament,” he said, referring to the legislature that announced the Turkish Republic in 1923.
Regarding fears that the headscarved deputies would face an unpleasant reception in Parliament, as has occurred in the past, Arınç said that common sense finally prevailed.
According to Arınç, true secularism is about freedom of religion and respecting everyone’s faith. He added that although there are some whose conception of secularism would restrict some types of practices, “Now there is a different, a new Turkey.”
Responding questions on the issue, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek told reporters on Friday that the scene they witnessed in Parliament on Thursday was an extremely important display of the legislature’s maturity. “Fortunately, this problem is now history,” Çiçek added.
CHP Deputy Chairman Akif Hamzaçebi said that a liberal attitude is necessary regarding this issue. “Turkey overcame this problem with consensus,” he said, calling the achievement a great gain for democracy and agreeing with Çiçek that Turkish history had turned the page on the matter.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s first headscarved deputy, Merve Kavakçı, who was forcefully removed from her 1999 swearing-in ceremony in Parliament for wearing a headscarf, welcomed the development, calling it a positive step for the country’s human rights record.
Kavakçı congratulating the four headscarved deputies, saying: “They exercised a very natural human right by entering Parliament while wearing their headscarves, which caused society no loss, but helped it recover its values. However, Turkey’s human rights issues are not completely resolved. Constitutional changes should take place in order to allow people to be able to live according to their beliefs.”
Kavakçı said the development should pave the way for the removal of an ongoing de facto ban on the headscarf in other institutions such as the judiciary, the army and the police. She added that the hard-fought gain must be carefully protected.
Kavakçı was elected to Parliament on the Virtue Party (FP) ticket in 1999, but was not allowed to serve as a deputy because she wore a headscarf.
She was not only dismissed from Parliament but was also stripped of her citizenship. Moreover, the Constitutional Court ruled that her wearing a headscarf in Parliament was a violation of the Constitution’s principle of secularism as part of a court case that resulted in the party’s closure in 2001.
Yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said Thursday was a historic day for Turkey, adding: “An environment has emerged in the Parliament of our nation where all colors of the nation are represented. The discrimination against women and inequality between men and women have ended. A dark page has been closed and a new page has been opened.”
Bozdağ said the headscarf ban in Parliament and public institutions was “the product of Turkey’s shameful history.”
Hamzaçebi described the four headscarved deputies’ participation in Parliament on Thursday as an example of freedom, saying on Friday that the development is a significant advance for Turkey’s democracy.