Headscarf ban victims tell stories of discrimination on website

The website's editor, Halil Çiçekfidan, said he created the website to draw greater attention to the headscarf ban issue through the shared experiences of the ban's victims.

Headscarf ban victims tell stories of discrimination on website

A group of women who have suffered from the headscarf ban have written about the experiences they had due to the ban and how they felt on a newly launched website.

The headscarf ban in Turkey began to be strictly implemented following a military coup in 1997, known as the Feb. 28 coup, when the country's powerful military forced a coalition government to resign on the grounds that there was rising religious fundamentalism in the country. The coup introduced a series of restrictions on the lives of pious people, with the headscarf ban being the most widely practiced.

The launch of the website, www.dunyaortak.com, came at a time when a new constitution is currently being drafted in Turkey and hopes for the full elimination of the headscarf ban are high.

The website's editor, Halil Çiçekfidan, said he created the website to draw greater attention to the headscarf ban issue through the shared experiences of the ban's victims.

Until 2010, headscarved students were not admitted to lectures at universities due to the headscarf ban. The ban was eliminated after the Higher Education Board (YÖK) sent a circular to universities on the issue. However, there are still some university students who face problems when wearing a headscarf because some universities and professors insist on retaining the ban.

İrem Cin, who is 22 years old and a student at Okan University, wrote on the website that the headscarf ban, which she says discriminates against religious women, continues as a dean at her university tries from time to time to convince her to take off her headscarf. She said that the dean once called her to his office and prevented her from leaving the room until she promised to take off her headscarf the following day.

Aysun Çelebi, who is 32 and a student in İstanbul University's faculty of pharmacology, said she had had to suspend her university education until her faculty began to allow headscarved students. “I could have been working as a pharmacist for 10 years by now, but I am still a sophomore. By the time I will have graduated, my friends with whom I have studied at high school will have been working for 15 years,” she said.

In late February, the Civil Servants' Trade Union (Memur-Sen) collected more than 11 million signatures from across the country as part of a campaign to abolish the headscarf ban for civil servants. The campaign was titled “10 million Signatures for Freedom.” However, one of the contributors to the website, Ayşe Varışlısoy, says she does not want to get her hopes too high because she is afraid of being disappointed again. “If we do not manage [to address this issue in the new constitution], we may have to wait for another 30 years until another new constitution is written,” she noted.

Another writer, who did not wish to reveal her name, said she felt extremely happy and proud when she received sufficient scores on a university entrance exam to be accepted to a Turkish teaching faculty. However, when she was told to take off her headscarf in order to enter the faculty building on the first day of school, she became aware of the long and exhausting fight she would face throughout her university education. “I was utterly disappointed. I was treated as if I had a terminal virus. All I have for university memories is years of being offended and being treated differently from others. Many times I said to myself that I wish I had not been accepted to university,” she said.

In a landmark move early this year, the Council of State, which in the past made many decisions in favor of the headscarf ban, surprised many by deciding to suspend the implementation of Article 20 of the Turkish Bar Association's (TBB) Lawyers' Code of Practice, which stipulates that lawyers and paralegals must “conduct their profession in court with an appearance that suits their profession and without a headscarf.” The court's decision came as a result of an appeal filed by lawyer Figen Şaştım.

In Turkey, female civil servants are not allowed to wear headscarves while engaging in their profession. Although there is no such ban for employees in the private sector, many private companies refuse to allow headscarves to be worn out of image concerns.

Cihan

Last Mod: 21 Mayıs 2013, 13:57
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