Head Scarf Ruling Raises Tension in Turkey (AP) By SELCAN HACAOGLU ANKARA, Turkley 11/13/05 4:17 PM)
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ANKARA, Turkey -- A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in
favor of Turkey´s ban on head scarves at universities has stoked a
confrontation between the Islamic-rooted government and the secular
A panel of 17 European judges on Thursday ruled against a Turkish
woman´s challenge to the country´s ban on wearing Islamic head
scarves at the country´s universities, saying it does not violate
the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion guaranteed
by an international human rights treaty.
Proponents of the ban, including President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, said
the ruling was "binding" and should spell out the end of the head
But the conservative and Islamic-rooted government led by the prime
minister argued the decision was not binding and promised to press
ahead with its campaign to lift the ban.
"The government is determined to lift bans," said Turkish Foreign
Minister Abdullah Gul.
Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc said Sunday that the court
had "committed a grave mistake."
The ban on head scarves on campuses and in state offices has been
enforced vigorously since 1986 under the auspices of the military,
which considers itself the guarantor of the secular constitution.
The issue also is hotly debated in Europe, with some countries, such
as France, banning the wearing of conspicuous religious apparel in
schools, while others allowing it.
But the debate over the dress code dates to the days before Mustafa
Kemal Ataturk, who implemented Western reforms as he founded a
modern, secular Turkey from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire 82 years
Proponents of the dress code fear that if left unchecked, Islamic
fundamentalism will lead to a theocracy like that in Iran under the
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The court dismissed an appeal by Leyla Sahin, a Turkish Muslim,
against an earlier ruling from a lower chamber of the Strasbourg
court that found the head scarf ban was in place to protect the
rights and freedoms of all students and safeguard public order.
In a politically charged case, Sahin sued the Turkish government
after being refused access to a written examination at the faculty
of medicine of the University of Istanbul in 1998 because she was
wearing a head scarf. On the same grounds, the university refused to
enroll her in a course or admit her to various lectures.
Gul´s wife, Hayrunisa, had filed a similar case with the court after
the board of Ankara University refused to register her for classes
in 1998, but she withdrew her complaint last year.
On Sunday, opposition leader Deniz Baykal told private CNN-Turk
television that Gul and his government were angry because they "felt
In June, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his government
would consider holding a referendum on whether to allow the wearing
of head scarves in schools and government offices. Erdogan´s wife
and two daughters wear head scarves and Erdogan has said that his
daughters chose to study at American universities because of the
The court ruled that the head scarf ban was based on the principles
of secularism and equality which, according to the Turkish
Constitution, guarantee democratic values and prevents the state
from manifesting a preference for a particular religion or belief.
(Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 11/13/05)
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