CHP’s “headscarf” bill sparks controversy in Turkey

CHP’s “headscarf” bill sparks controversy in Turkey
Update: 05 October 2022 22:30
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Opposition parties backed CHP’s proposal, but country’s governing ally criticized the move, blaming CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu for “abusing” the issue

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) introducing a law proposal to the parliament for legally securing the right of women’s wearing headscarves in public institutions, sparked controversy in the country.

Opposition parties raised support for CHP’s bill, however, country’s governing ally criticized the move, blaming CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaoglu for “abusing” the issue, claiming that “there’s no such problem in Turkey anymore.”

CHP on Tuesday, presented a bill to Turkish National Assembly (TBMM), titled “Law proposal on women not being subjected to any coercion, other than to wear the outfit within the scope of the practice of the profession they carry out.”

“Women who are employed in public institutions and organizations and who work in a profession affiliated with public institutions and their superior organizations cannot be subjected to any coercion in a way that violates their fundamental rights and freedoms, such as wearing or not wearing clothes other than gowns, aprons, uniforms, etc. which are required to be worn within the scope of the performance of their profession,” CHP noted in the bill.

Women wearing Islamic headscarves have long been a matter of debate in modern Turkey. The headscarves were banned in public institutions, schools and universities, under a “Public Dress Cod” enacted after 1980 coup d'etat. The practice remained in effect during the succeeding secularist administrations, until Islamic President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) dismantled the ban in 2013 as part of a reforms package. CHP was among the bloc strongly opposing the use of Islamic headscarves in public and educational institutions.

Comments from political parties

Turkey’s second largest opposition pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) declared support to CHP’s proposal. 

HDP is against all forms of domination over the female body, party’s Deputy Chair Meral Danis Bestas told Arti Gercek on Tuesday. 

"No dress of a woman should be the subject of a discussion,” Bestas said.

Ahmet Davutoglu, the leader of the Future Party said he found Kilicdaroglu’s proposal very valuable in terms of socil peace.

Davutoglu called on all political parties and MPs to support the bill vias social media.

The leader of the Felicity Party, Temel Karamollaoglu also declared support for the bill.

“We value and support Mr. Kilicdaroglu's call, which will legally secure the gains and put an end to arbitrary practices,” he said. 

The country’s governing ally on the hand, criticized CHP leader over the proposal.

Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson Omer Celik said they are the leading political movement of the struggle for rights and freedoms. 

“We fought, we paid the price, and we did not back down,” he said.

According to Mehmet Ozhaseki, the Deputy Chairman of the AKP, CHP has abused the headscarf issue for years. 

“In Turkey, no one has a headscarf problem anymore,” he said.

Devlet Bahceli, the leader of AKP’s far-right governing ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) also slammed Kilicdaroglu for “abusing” the issue. 

In his address to his party’s lawmakers, Bahceli said there is no need for a new decision over the issue.

Kilicdaroglu on late Monday, who announced the move via a social media video, said that they have created a legal framework in harmony with the principles of universal law.

“We are taking the women's clothing out of the monopoly of politics. We will legally secure this right. We will completely remove the issue from being a topic of discussion,” Kilicdaroglu said.

“Turkey has many open wounds and they keep us captive to the past, which one of them is the headscarf issue,” he said. 

“CHP has made mistakes over the issue in the past. But we knew how to change and learn. Now it's time to move on to the next step. It's time to get over this issue as a society and leave it behind. It's time to settle the matter with the seriousness of the state,” Kilicdaroglu said.