Turkey: Court Defends Headscarf Ruling

Turkey's Constitutional Court defended its decision opposing Islamic headscarves at the country's universities.
Turkey's Constitutional Court on Wednesday defended its decision opposing Islamic headscarves at the country's universities saying it harmed the principles of the republic.
The Turkish news site, Hurriyet, cited the release of the court's reasons behind its ruling to annul constitutional amendments to lift the headscarf ban in universities. The court handed down its decision to annul the legislation in June.

"This legislation violates Article 2 of the Constitution which defines the articles that cannot be changed or even proposed to be changed," the court said.

In June the Constitutional Court said that a decision made in Parliament in February to ease a ban on scarves being worn on college campuses, violated the Turkish constitution's secular principles.

The government had then said that banning headscarves at universities meant that many girls were being denied an education.

Article 2 of the Turkish Constitution describes the characteristics of the republic in which secularism is included. The first three articles of the Turkish Constitution cannot be amended.

The court said on Wednesday that lifting the ban "indirectly changed" and undermined the basic features of the republic.

The ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) sponsored legislation amending articles of the Constitution related to equality before the law and the right and duty of training and education.

The Republican People’s Party and the Democratic Left Party appealed to the Constitutional Court to review the legislation.

"It is decided that the amendment of Article 10 and 42 of the constitution implicitly violates the secularism principle at its essence as it would limit other people's rights and damage the public order by taking previous verdicts of the Turkish Constitutional Court and the European Court of Human Rights into consideration," the court said.

Turkey's population of 70 million people is predominantly Muslim. But secularists fear that lifting the ban on headscarves at universities would erode Turkey's officially secular state nature and create pressure on all female students to cover themselves.

Lifting the headscarf ban is a sensitive issue in Turkey's political landscape as the headscarf is seen as the symbol of political Islam.

22 October 2008

Source: AKI