Erdogan proposes referendum for headscarf legislation
Turkey’s President Tayip Erdogan on Saturday continued his bid to enshrine in the constitution the right of women to wear the headscarf, challenging main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu to take the matter to a referendum vote.
Earlier in October, Erdogan called on political parties to make necessary constitutional regulations for the freedom of wearing headscarves, outbidding a CHP proposal to pass a bill in the National Assembly.
“We have now made the preparations. We will send the constitutional amendment to the Parliament. We will see if he comes along or not,” Erdogan said while addressing the public in Turkey’s southeastern city of Malatya.
He continued: “If a sufficient majority [in the parliament] is achieved, it will be an important gain for Turkey. Otherwise we will continue our struggle to bring our country to a new, civil constitution after the election. And now I’m saying for the first time today, if you dare, let's take this matter to a referendum, we can do that too. If it is not resolved in the parliament, let's take it to the nation, let the nation decide."
Practicing religious women have long struggled in Turkey under secular laws that prevented them from wearing headscarves at schools and in public institutions including military and judiciary. Young girls wearing wigs in the university gates were an ordinary sight during the 1990s.
But those scenes are long gone since the AKP practically outruled any ban on headscarf during its 20 year tenure. But the deep effects still echo in Turkey’s society so much so that political parties still invest in the issue ahead of next year’s presidential and parliamentary elections.