World Bulletin / News Desk
Four female lawmakers from Turkey's ruling party plan to wear their headscarves in parliament on Thursday in a challenge to the country's secular tradition.
The last time a lawmaker attempted to wear the headscarf in parliament in 1999 she was expelled from the assembly.
"We do not know how they will react but we are going to enter parliament with our headscarves and continue our work," Nurcan Dalbudak, one of the four Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers, told Reuters.
"We are going to witness the start of an important era and we will play the leading role, we will be the standard-bearers, this is very important," she said.
While there are no specific restrictions on wearing the headscarf in parliament, opposition from secularists as well as a ban in other state institutions, which was lifted this month, have previously deterred women from wearing them.
Dalbudak and fellow AKP lawmakers Sevde Beyazit Kacar, Gulay Samanci and Gonul Bekin Sahkulubey were expected to attend the general assembly later on Thursday wearing their headscarves.
"All our members are in agreement, that is, we think the AKP is exploiting religion. We will never remain silent towards actions aimed at eliminating the principle of secularism," CHP lawmaker Dilek Akagun Yilmaz told Reuters.
She said the party had agreed to show their opposition in a "graceful" manner, and it is unlikely parliament will witness a repeat of the chaotic scenes from 1999 when Merve Kavakci, an MP from the Islamist Virtue Party, a predecessor of AKP, wore her headscarf to a swearing-in ceremony.
Bulent Ecevit, the prime minister at the time, addressed the packed assembly, saying: "This is not the place to challenge the state. Inform this woman of her limits!", while half the chamber stood shouting: "Get out! Get out!" to the seated Kavakci.
The assembly was adjourned and Kavakci was forced to leave the chamber without taking her oath. She was later stripped of her Turkish citizenship after she was found to have taken dual American citizenship without informing the authorities.
The Virtue Party was closed down in 2001 for violating the secularist articles of the constitution and several lawmakers, including Kavakci, were banned from politics for five years.
Nazli Ilicak, then a fellow Virtue Party lawmaker who was sitting next to Kavakci in parliament before she was expelled, welcomed the AKP MPs' decision and said she did not expect a repeat of 1999.
"This is a positive development. I don't think there will be similar scenes to the Kavakci incident. People are now a little embarrassed about what they did in the past," Ilicak said.
The first attempt of AK Party concerning headscarf issue was in 2008 to amend the related article of Turkish constitution to surpass all regulations banning headscarf wearing in universities.
It was approved in the Parliament with 411 votes of 550 MPs but the amendment was taken to Constitutional Court by the main opposition party CHP and Democratic Left Party (DSP) and the Court canceled the amendment. A short while after the case, the Chief Public Prosecutor sued a closure case against the ruling AK Party claiming that it acted against secularism.
In 2010 referendum on the amendment of 26 Articles of the Turkish constitution the issue was referred between the lines instead of a direct emphasis. Since then many of the universities let students enter the campuses with headscarves but still it was banned in state institutions.
The concluding attempt of AK Party concerning the headscarf issue came with the Democratization Package declared in September 30 by PM Erdogan, which opened the gates of state institutions to the women wearing headscarf besides introducing a number of reforms on issues regarding political rights, such as election threshold, party organization, and propaganda in non-Turkish languages, abolishment of the student oath, freedom of education in different languages and dialects at private schools, legal guarantee on personal data and deterrence for crimes of discrimination.Last Mod: 31 Ekim 2013, 16:01