Turkey's AK Party: Rectors committing crime

Ruling AK Party urged state prosecutors to investigate university rectors who have refused to implement new laws allowing female students to wear the headscarf on campus.

Turkey's AK Party:  Rectors committing crime
Turkey's ruling AK Party urged state prosecutors on Thursday to investigate university rectors who have refused to implement new laws allowing female students to wear the Muslim headscarf on campus.

Many rectors have refused to recognise the government's decision to ease a ban on students covering their heads on campus. They claim further legislation is required.

Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice & Development (AK) Party, said Thursday university rectors were committing crime.

"Freedom of education at universities is obstructed illegally despite the recent constitutional amendment," he told a press conference in Ankara.

Firat said whether a rector or a professor, nobody had the right or freedom to commit a crime.

"As far as I have seen they are committing a crime (by not fulfilling what the laws say). It is illegal and a violation of laws to hamper a fundamental right (right to education) by showing a decision of the Constitutional Court as a reason," he told.

Firat urged prosecutors to launch legal proceedings against those who violate the Constitution.

The AK Party says the issue is one of religious freedom in Turkey, a European Union candidate country. Two thirds of Turkish women wear the headscarf and opinion polls show a majority of Turks back the relaxation of the ban at university.

On Feb. 9, parliament approved constitutional amendments allowing female students to cover their heads and President Abdullah Gul signed them into law last week.

But on Wednesday the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) asked the Constitutional Court to quash the reforms on the grounds that they violate Turkey's secular constitution. It is unclear when the court will rule on the matter.

University rectors returned to the attack on Thursday against the reform, claiming it had triggered chaos and tension.

"We had said there could be chaos in the universities (because of this reform). Now, unfortunately, this has come to pass," Mustafa Akaydin, head of the staunchly secular Inter-University Board grouping rectors, told a news conference.

Some universities have started to allow covered students onto their campuses while others have not, Turkish media say.

Secularists say allowing women to wear the headscarf in universities will gradually lead to social pressure on all women to cover their heads in Turkey.

Under the government's reform, the headscarf ban would still apply to women professors as well as to civil servants.

The headscarf ban in universities dates back to the 1980s but was tightened in 1997 when army generals, with public backing, ousted a government they deemed too Islamist. The army has remained largely quiet over the government's reform.

Many rectors insist the reform can only be enforced after parliament has amended a law governing YOK, the body that supervises Turkish higher education. But the head of YOK, Yusuf Ziya Ozcan, says the reform is valid now.

Akaydin called for Ozcan's resignation and said the rectors would continue to fight the reform.


Reuters
Last Mod: 28 Şubat 2008, 15:52
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