World Bulletin / News Desk
An İzmir court has handed down a prison sentence to a Turkish professor from Ege University after he repeatedly blocked headscarved women from entering the faculty building where he worked.
The court accused the professor of infringing on citizens' constitutional right of access to education and sentenced him to over two years in prison.
The professor, Esat Rennan Pekünlü, from the university's department of astronomy and space sciences, was caught on camera in May taking photographs of headscarved students and preventing them from entering the building.
The Higher Education Board (YÖK) lifted a ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf on university campuses in 2010. However, some universities continue to impose the notorious ban. Opponents of the ban, including conservatives and many liberal intellectuals, think that such a ban contravenes fundamental rights as it deprives some citizens of their right to education.
Pekünlü was captured by cameramen of the Cihan news agency while he was standing at the door of his faculty building and taking photos of headscarved students. Cameramen had arrived at the faculty after some students tipped them off that the professor was violating the rights of women wearing headscarves at their university.
Pekünlü repeatedly blocked those students from entering the building when they tried to attend their classes. He would, however, pay no attention to male students or female students who were not wearing headscarves.
The Ege University administration had earlier announced that an investigation had been launched into the professor's actions. In October 2010, YÖK sent a circular to university administrations, asking them not to send students away from class or campus for wearing the headscarf.
The İzmir 4th Criminal Court of First Instance charged the professor with violating the privacy of the Fatma Nur Gidal -- one of the women he prevented from entering the building and the plaintiff in the case -- as well as violating her right to access to education.
Gidal's lawyer demanded the maximum prison sentence for the professor and asked the court not to postpone the punishment, as he had previously been charged with similar crimes.
Pekünlü's lawyer cited a 2008 decision by Turkey's Constitutional Court upholding headscarf bans in universities, as well as a 2004 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) that said such bans do not violate freedom of religion.
Speaking following the decision, Gidal said she was not able to enter the building, let alone the classrooms. She said she had no choice but to file the complaint against her professor.