Much ado about nothing -- or Mrs. Gül's headscarf

Opponents attack Gül over his wife's headscarf even more because Mrs. Gül filed a lawsuit against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights in 2002 for not being admitted to a university because of her headscarf.

Much ado about nothing -- or Mrs. Gül's headscarf

By Fatma Dişli, Today's Zaman

Perhaps there would not have been such fierce objection to Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül's presidential bid if his wife, Hayrunnisa Gül, did not wear a headscarf -- banned in public buildings in secular Turkey due to it being a religious symbol. Opponents attack Gül over his wife's headscarf even more because Mrs. Gül filed a lawsuit against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights in 2002 for not being admitted to a university because of her headscarf.

They argue that Mrs. Gül, who later withdrew her case after her husband became Turkey's foreign minister, did wrong by complaining about Turkey to a foreign court. There is much discussion about Gül's wife's headscarf, her case at the European court and disaster scenarios that may erupt at Çankaya [the presidential palace] receptions and so on. But actually, nobody is discussing Mr. Gül himself, focusing instead on his wife as if she is the presidential nominee. This situation even spurred Mr. Gül to remind journalists that he -- not Mrs. Gül - is the presidential candidate when he was asked many questions about his wife at a news conference on Wednesday.

Star's Mustafa Erdoğan harshly criticizes the circles that are making a fuss about whether Mr. Gül will attend receptions at the military house and Çankaya with his wife but do not discuss a series of serious problems that Turkey faces. He thinks that the circles that care so much about Mrs. Gül's headscarf do not discuss whether the new president will use his authority for Turkey's democratization and improvement of human rights, or how he will approach critical issues such as the new constitution, integration with the EU, the Cyprus and Kurdish issues, relations with northern Iraq, minority rights, or whether he will use his much-debated authority until the very end and work in harmony with the government.

Sabah's Emre Aköz dwells on the criticisms about Hayrunnisa Gül filing a lawsuit against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights, terming them as examples of sheer nonsense and ignorance. He explains why: "The laws agreed upon in international agreements are not foreign laws. Why do you think there is a Turkish judge at the court? The 90th article of the Turkish Constitution says that international agreements [that Turkey is party to] are parts of Turkish law. Nobody can go to the Constitutional Court about the articles of these agreements on the grounds that they are against the Turkish Constitution."

He further explains that if an article in domestic law contradicts an article in the international law, the latter is to be put into practice. Aköz affirms that the law belongs to everybody, be it the wife of the foreign minister or anyone else. "Anybody who has exhausted all remedies of domestic law can apply to the European court -- and they should," asserts Aköz. As for Mrs. Gül withdrawing her case later on, he believes that Mrs. Gül felt forced to act so as to prevent her husband being a target of political criticism. "Here, the most saddening thing is Mrs. Gül's fear of being criticized. And unfortunately, this is not an illusionary fear -- there are concrete reasons that result in that fear," notes Aköz.

Milliyet's Taha Akyol agrees with Aköz in that there was nothing wrong with Mrs. Gül applying to the European court to defend her right to enter a university with her headscarf. Referring to a similar case in the UK -- when former Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife Cherie Blair acted as the lawyer of headscarf-wearing girls in a case filed against the UK -- Akyol notes that nobody criticized Mrs. Blair at that time for doing so. "Certainly, the European court's decisions could be criticized; but terming one's application to the court as a hostility toward the state is the manifestation of an outdated, totalitarian mentality," stresses Akyol.

Last Mod: 17 Ağustos 2007, 10:05
Add Comment