Women In Turkish Universities Can Wear Headscarves Again

Almost all Turkish universities have abandoned the official prohibition on Islamic headscarves on their campuses; the ban itself ended in September when the government said that it would support any student expelled or disciplined for wearing a headscarf.  The ban did not target the traditional scarves worn by women in Anatolia, but rather the hijab, also called a “turban” in Turkey, which has become a symbol of pious or political Islam and was adopted by many urban, educated women in the 1980′s and 1990′s. 

Although approximately 60 percent of Turkish women wear a headscarf, the ban was implemented as part of an effort to secularize university spaces.  Students were forced to wear wigs or large hats to avoid going bare-headed.  Other women simply went abroad to study.  In 2008, the prime minister tried to get rid of the ban through a constitutional amendment that passed through the legislature but was eventually thrown out by the Constitutional Court.

“The reason why we don’t allow a headscarf for, say a judge, is that it is a symbol of religion. The state should be impartial to race, religion, everything,” explained Hursit Gunes, a deputy secretary-general of the secular CHP, the main opposition party. 

Civil servants are forbidden to wear headscarves, and lawyers are still barred from wearing them in court, which significantly impedes female lawyers like Fatma Benli, who has to appoint proxies to defend her clients.  Ironically, Benli specializes in defending women, so the prohibition on headscarves, which has been supported by some feminists who believe that the headscarf is a symbol of male oppression, can in some ways set women back further. 

Sociologist Dilek Cindoglu says that the disadvantages that begin in the civil service spill over into the private sector: “Once they get employment they are being discriminated against in terms of promotions, salaries, and in terms of dismissals should the company decide to reduce the workforce.”

A Human Rights Watch report released in 2004 concluded that the headscarf ban ultimately stifled academic freedom, forcing the resignation of female professors and preventing some women from attending universities at all.  “The Turkish authorities say they want to protect women who choose not to wear the headscarf,” said Rachel Denber of the HRW. “But bullying women out of higher education because of the way they choose to dress is a poor way to protect women’s freedoms.”

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.


Nil Djdjdj
Nil Djdjdj7 years ago

Yes they can finally go to universty with scarf.maybe it seems innocent at first but i wondered what ll happen if a doctor with scarf wouldnt want to care of a sick man?? Or a law student with scarf wants to do punishment as quran says?? Today going to universty with scarf, tomorrow not working with men, then ban alcohol,then force other people to use that shits!!who can guarantee that they wont want sharia finally??to protect secularism turkey had to do that scarf bans but its too late.tomorrow maybe we can be have to protect ourselves from discusting fanatic muslims..and as a reply to mary,just talk foryour self please.there are muslim women who never wears that scarf.so u cant say muslim women want to wear this,in turkey if P is covering hair,rest P doesnt wear

bob m.
bob m8 years ago

Mary; Your comment to Robin asserting that Muslim women can immigrate anywhere they like ; given your twisted appraisal of democracy as sick,biased,distorted , weak, opressive leads me to believe that you must be a much happier person in S. Arabia.
As well; Robin is not entirely powerless in her democratic land; she can vote to keep immigration low to non exhistant of cultish behaviours which hypocritically disrupt and manipulate at every opportunity.
Her power is based on precepts you are alien to and
sadly despise. As a woman; she has walked a walk you have not even begun and you fear.


Beth S.
Beth S8 years ago

Wednesday, 05 January 2011

University hijab campaign to introduce penalties


MAKKAH: Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah is to gradually introduce penalties for its female students who do not wear the Islamic hijab as part of a wider campaign to promote it entitled "My Hijab is Worship".

Sources at the university said that there are no specific conditions set for the hijab, other than that it should "provide proper covering and be unattractive".

The campaign, which is being run by the university's Student Affairs and follows a program set out by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, will see moves to promote commitment to the hijab.

Barbara Erdman
Barbara Erdman8 years ago


Mary P.
Mary P8 years ago

Jennifer , off course some muslims are responsible for deaths of innocent

People too. I admit there are evil people in all countries, Religions, Race and
Cultures. Sick and evil individuals are found amongst all peoples of
The world ; reason for many individuals on death row and in prisons.

BTW Almost every Holy Prophet of GOD, from the beginning of time were
Demonized, Insulted and Killed by PEOPLE just like YOU; so its
Nothing new to hear filthy words aimed at our Holy Prophet of GOD
Almighty. You will have to answer to GOD for reviling one of HIS
BELOVED Prophets. Take care.

Robin B, is it possible that muslim women need YOUR permission
If they wish to leave the Middle East and settle elsewhere in the world???
Perhaps YOU imagine YOU own the world. Well!! Wake up girl; YOU DON'T..

Mary P.
Mary P8 years ago

Myriam - I am sorry you had to go through such an experience, but

I don't see Why women should have to STOP wearing headscarves because
Of harassment of some men to others who don't wear headscarves.
The ones that should be STOPPED are the MEN who harass. Period.

Lindsey do me a favour; Get a Life!! You and others like you have NO
RIGHT to tell me or any other Muslim Women to wear a Wig if we wish to
wear a Headscarf and for whatever reason is also entirely our
Perogative. Please, I very Politely ask you to Mind your Own business.
I do NOT tell you or make suggestions how YOU should dress
so please don't tell me I must Choose to dress as YOU ask me to.
We muslim women do NOT owe you or anyone else any explanation
WHY we CHOOSE to wear a headscarf. You can perceive it however you
Wish to BUT, don't tell me what I should or should NOT wear.

Myriam Garcon
Myriam G8 years ago

Dear Mary P,
it's beautiful to see how fervent you are!
But, I'm sure you're aware of situations where the veil, the scarf, is becoming a threat to women. I don't know about Turkey, but I know about France. In some places where there are a lot of Muslim women that wear the scarf, some Muslim men have started harassing the women that DON'T wear the scarf, calling them immodest. Some non-Muslim women have even started wearing the scarf, just to be left alone when they go out. I was the subject of such harassment when I went to France by myself, years ago, and it was rather distressing, to say the least.

Lindsey DTSW
.8 years ago

Mary, if the headscarf is merely an 'innocent piece of cloth' worn solely to modestly cover the head, as you claim, then these women shouldn't have any problem wearing a hat or a wig instead, should they? Since the scarf is 'just a piece of cloth' and they can satisfy their modesty in other ways.

But from their insistence that they wear that scarf, and only that scarf, it's obvious it isn't just an 'innocent pice of cloth'. It's a symbol. And in many cases a highly politicized one.

And nowhere in the world are nuns (or the Catholic Church) demanding that non-nuns wear a nun's habit and no one except nuns wears a nun's habit (except perhaps as a Halloween costume.) And nowhere in the world would a nun's refusal to wear her habit instead of secular clothing constitute a criminal offense. Therefore the comparison of a nun's habit to a hijab is ludicrous.

Robin B.
Rob B8 years ago

I think that women (and men) should be allowed to wear what they will; however, there has been a big push to force women to don hajibs who don't want to wear them. And in western countries you are entitled to privacy not anonymity so remember that wearing a burqa or full veiling so that your face is not visible is not appropriate. If you want to do that, stay in the middle east.

Jennifer E.
Jennifer E8 years ago

Well said, John T.!! It is hard to imagine how anyone can take what a pedophile demands as the basis of a way of life.

And MAry P., you sound as though you think Muslims haven't been responsible for any deaths?!