Headscarves in Turkey: Undercover
The veil makes a come back.
As other countries move to ban Muslim head coverings, Turkey is going the opposite way.
Women have been free to wear headscarves at state universities since 2011, and in parliament since 2013.
Last August policewomen were allowed to cover their heads; in November a ban on headscarves among civilian defence staff was lifted.
In 1925 Kemal Ataturk, Turkey’s first president, declared that a “civilised, international dress” was “worthy and appropriate” for the new republic.
For men, this meant Western shoes, trousers, shirts and ties—in with the bowler and out with the fez.
Women were urged to follow European fashion, dance the foxtrot and work in the professions.
In 1934 Turkey let women vote and banned the wearing of the Islamic veil.
Curbs on religious garb were tightened in the 1990s.
Fatma Benli, a lawyer and parliamentarian, remembers being asked to remove her scarf before defending her dissertation in the late 1990s.
In 1999 an MP who came to parliament in a headscarf was booed out.
That began to change after 2002, as the Justice and Development (AK) party consolidated power.
Today 21 covered women sit in parliament.
Critics say the AK party has promoted veiling by preferring veiled job applicants and conservative groups.
Binnaz Toprak, a sociologist and opposition politician, has found that some women, especially in the public sector, wear the scarf to further their careers.
Some secularists see a link between stricter Islamic dress norms and increased violence against women.
In September a nurse in Istanbul was kicked in the face by a man enraged at her shorts.
He was quickly released, to be rearrested only after an outcry.
At a protest several weeks later a teenage student, Oznur, complained about a hostile climate in the district where she lives: “We can’t walk on our own in the evening without being harassed.”
She and her friends wanted neither a return to Kemalist dress codes nor their replacement by Islamic ones.
The state, she said, has no business telling women what they should wear.