World Bulletin / News Desk
The Civil Servants' Trade Union (Memur-Sen) has launched an online petition campaign seeking to collect at least 10 million signatures to push for the removal of a ban on the Islamic headscarf at public agencies.
The campaign is one among several moves addressing the headscarf ban in the public sector that have recently been made, while Parliament's Constitutional Reconciliation Commission has been reluctant to discuss the issue despite a growing expectation in the public to address the matter in the new constitution.
Memur-Sen President Ahmet Gündoğdu officially launched a petition on Thursday that aimed to draw support from 10 million people who favor the lifting of the headscarf ban in the public sector. He introduced the petition during a press conference at Memur-Sen's headquarters. Noting that the dress code for public sector employees is the product of a pro-coup mentality, Gündoğdu said it was an absurd practice for civil servants, who had the right to elect parliamentarians, not to be given the right to choose their clothing.
“The article of the law that defines the dress code of civil servants stipulates that hair be exposed and apecifies the hairstyle, shoe type and moustache of male civil servants. While women who do not wear headscarves can work without impediment, the same right should be given to headscarved women,” Gündoğdu further noted.
Recalling a demonstration that Memur-Sen staged in November in front of the Turkish Parliament to call on deputies to address the issue of the headscarf ban, he said their effort was to keep the headscarf ban on Turkey's agenda. Gündoğdu stated that union members orchestrated an act in which several civil servants flouted the ban by wearing headscarves at their workplaces.
Gündoğdu said although the constitutional referendum held in September 2010 enacted measures regarding the rights of women, it failed to address the ban on the headscarf -- a major human rights violation. He said the union aimed to collect 10 million signatures in 30 days and submit them to the Prime Minister's Office.
Another move came on Thursday from BDP deputy Altan Tan, who submitted a proposal for a law to remove the headscarf ban. Speaking at a press conference at the parliament building, Tan said the Feb. 28 process, during which the military forced a civilian government -- led by Necmettin Erbakan of the now-defunct Welfare Party (RP) -- to step down on the grounds of rising religious fundamentalism in the country, victimized dozens according to their religious and ideological inclinations. A headscarf ban at universities was also imposed after the military intervention on Feb. 28, 1997, which is generally known as the postmodern coup, as it was achieved through intimidation and not through the use of weapons.
A report prepared by the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) in November revealed that 76.3 percent of people in Turkey think headscarved women should be able to work in the public sector. The report was based on a survey by TESEV titled “Definitions and the Expectations Regarding the New Constitution” in which 2,699 people from 29 provinces participated.
Amid the moves to lift the headscarf ban in the public sector, the commission responsible for drafting a new constitution has not yet taken any action regarding the issue.
Many people demand that headscarf freedom be protected in the new constitution. Without such a legal guarantee, it is felt that a ban on the headscarf in the public sector and a prohibition that was revoked on university campuses could be imposed by a new government.