Turkey’s parliament has passed two constitutional amendments easing the ban on Islamic headscarves at colleges. The issue is a heated one in the country, where the government is secular. Protests are expected.
The government made the change because many women were being denied education. However, the country believes deeply in secularism, causing many to be outraged by the move. Many academics see the headscarf as a symbol is Islam. The ease on a ban of headscarves is seen as a small step toward allowing Islam a larger presence in the country’s public life.
The parliament voted 403 to 107 in favor of the first amendment to the constitution, which says that everybody has a right to equal treatment from state institutions, including universities. The second amendment passed similarly. It states that no one can be denied the right to a higher education.
Opponents of the amendments say the move will damage secularism, which, they say, will lead to damaging democracy as well. Opposition parties say they will challenge the amendments in court. They see the changes as a way to allow religious beliefs into the government.
However, those that wear the headscarf are happy about the change. They say the move will not damage the government’s secularism. The scarf is simply an expression of personal religious belief.
The ban on headscarves had been in place at colleges since 1997. It came after the secular military ousted a government described as too Islamist. The amendments do not allow for all headscarves. Only traditional ones will now be allowed, with those that cover the neck and face, such as the burka, still banned.
Turkey’s population is predominantly Muslim, with two-thirds of all women covering their heads. This means thousands of women have been denied the right to seek higher education. Because of the many Muslims, public support for the change has been large.
However, many thousands of people are not convinced. They are expected to protest in Ankara.