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Women launch initiative demanding scarf-wearing deputies
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 21 Mar 2011 Mon 11:52 am

Women launch initiative demanding scarf-wearing deputies

21 March 2011, Monday / EMİNE DOLMACI, İSTANBUL

Nihal Bengisu Karaca (L), Hilal Kaplan (M), Sibel Eraslan (R)

A group of women including journalists, representatives from nongovernmental organizations and activists has launched an initiative demanding the election of headscarf-wearing deputies in the general elections of June 12.

The “We want headscarf-wearing deputies” initiative calls on political parties to nominate headscarf-wearing women in the upcoming general elections, warning them that if they do not nominate these women, they will not receive any votes from supporters of the initiative.

There is very little time left before the political parties must finalize their candidate lists for the elections and submit them to Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK). Some political parties are discussing whether they should nominate headscarf-wearing women, while there is growing demand in the public for these women to be in Parliament.

There is a strict ban on the use of the Muslim garment in Turkey, which affects not only university students but also those working in the public sector. Women with headscarves are not allowed to enter military facilities, including hospitals and recreational areas belonging to the Turkish military.

There is currently no headscarf-wearing deputy in Parliament. In 1999, a headscarf-wearing woman, Merve Kavakçı, was elected to Parliament from the now-defunct Virtue Party (FP). When she entered Parliament with her headscarf, she faced strong protest from other deputies and was eventually thrown out of Parliament. She was later stripped of her citizenship and deported to the US, as she held dual citizenship.

The members of the “We want headscarf-wearing deputies” initiative, which is supported by women such as Justice and Development Party (AK Party) founding members Ayşe Böhürler and Fatma Bostan Ünsal and journalists Ceyda Karan, Yasemin Göksu, Nihal Bengisu Karaca, Hilal Kaplan, Cihan Aktaş, Hidayet Şefkatli Tuksal and Sibel Eraslan will hold a meeting at the Taksim Hill Hotel today. The members of the initiative will tell the political parties that if they do not nominate headscarf-wearing women from places where their chances of election are high, they will not support the parties they have supported so far for their contribution to the democratization and civilianization of Turkey.

A statement posted by the supporters of the initiative on the group’s website recalls that 12 years have passed since the Kavakçı case and that it is time for Turkey to end the discrimination against headscarf-wearing women and their exclusion from Parliament.

Journalist Kaplan from the Taraf daily regretted that the nomination of headscarf-wearing deputies in Parliament is a belated move while explaining the motives behind the “We want headscarf-wearing deputies” initiative.

“If Parliament represents the nation, and the fact that 70 percent of the women in Turkey wear headscarves, the absence of a headscarf-wearing deputy in Parliament is an unacceptable thing. We launched this initiative in consideration of the fact that there is now a social consensus about the need to have headscarf-wearing deputies in Parliament and there are no legal barriers before their election,” said Kaplan.

Böhürler, who is also a columnist from the Yeni Şafak daily, said the only way before ending discrimination against headscarf-wearing women would be through having headscarf-wearing deputies in Parliament.

Criticizing the attitude of some conservative men who support headscarf-wearing deputies in theory but not in practice out of fears that these women will put their positions in danger, Böhürler said she has doubts as to whether these men really want a solution to the lack of representation of headscarf-wearing women in Parliament. “So, we have given up expecting a solution from men. And we should not even wait for support from headscarf-wearing women who are concerned about the positions of their husbands,” she said.


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