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باسم يوسف ساخرا:” أنا فى انتظار البوكس..ولا عاش ولا كان اللى يهين مرسى Bassem Youssef responds in his way to the warrant for his arrest for Insulting Islam and Morsi
Gay Turks and human rights activists chanting slogans against the Turkish government’s policies at İstiklal Avenue inIstanbul.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Turkey may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Homosexual relations are legal in the Republic of Turkey, but the law does not include sexual orientation or gender identity in its civil rights laws and there is no legal recognition for same-sex couples currently.
Some sections of society in Turkey are socially conservative when it comes to such issues as homosexuality. There also exists widespread homophobic discrimination in Turkey, which has been reducing in modern times.
The situation in regard to LGBT rights in Turkey has been improving in the 21st century, with proposals to introduce legislation against anti-LGBT hate crimes and discrimination, as well as to constitutionally allow the legal recognition of same-sex marriage.
In the 1990s, the LGBT movement fought against government bans on LGBT conferences. This prompted the creation of Lambda Istanbul. In 1994, the Freedom and Solidarity Partybanned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity within the party and nominated Demet Demir, a leading voice of the community, to successfully become the first transgendered candidate for the local council elections in Istanbul.
In 1996 the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s ruling and removed a child from her lesbian parent, on the grounds that homosexuality is “immoral”.
Gay rights groups claim that there are frequent homophobic incidents in Turkey. In 2008, a homosexual Turkish student, Ahmet Yildiz, was shot outside a cafe and later died in the hospital. Sociologists have called this Turkey’s first publicized gay honor killing. The desire of Turkey to join the European Union has put some pressure on the government to grant official recognition to LGBT rights. The report on progress in Turkey for the accession to the European Union of 14 October 2009 the European Commission for Enlargement wrote:
The legal framework is not adequately aligned with the EU acquis…
Homophobia has resulted in cases of physical and sexual violence. The killing of several transsexuals and transvestites is a worrying development. Courts have applied the principle of ‘unjust provocation’ in favour of perpetrators of crimes against transsexuals and transvestites.
Although Turkey is a country with Muslim majority, Turkey became the first Muslim majority country in which gay pride march is held. In Istanbul (since 2003) and in Ankara (since 2008) gay marches are being held each year with a small but increasing participation. Gay pride march in Istanbul started with 30 people in 2003 and in 2010 the participation became 5,000. The pride march 2011 is considered as the biggest until now, with more than 10.000 participants. Politicians of the biggest opposition party, CHP and another opposition party, BDP also lent their support to the demonstration. The pride march in Istanbul does not receive any support of the municipality or the government.
In 2009, a amateur football referee came out as a Homosexual and was subsequently banned from referring football matches.
On the 21 September 2011 Minister of Family and Social Policy Fatma Şahin met with an LGBT organization. She said that the government will actively work together with LGBT organizations. She submitted a proposal for the acceptance of LGBT individuals in the new constitution that the parliament plans to draft in the coming year. She is calling on members of the Parliament to handle the proposal positively. She asserted that “if freedom and equality is for everybody, then sexual orientation discrimination should be eliminated and rights of these LGBT citizens should be recognized.”
On 9 January 2012, one of the columnists named Serdar Arseven of an Islamist newspaper called “Yeni Akit” wrote an article, called LGBT people as perverts. Court of Cassation penalized Yeni Akit with 4000 TL and Serdar Arseven with 2000 TL, because of the hate speech.
In May 2012, the BDP requested the writers of the new Turkish constitution to include same-sex marriage in that constitution. This was rejected by the biggest party in the Turkish Parliament, the AK Party, and an opposition party, theMHP while supported by the main opposition party CHP
LGBT civil rights organizations
Ankara Pride parade in 2012,Kızılay,Ankara.
The major LGBT community-based civil rights organization is KAOS GL, established in 1994 in Ankara. Lambdaistanbul, a member of ILGA-Europe, established in 1993 in Istanbul, was dissolved in May 2008. The prosecution argued that its name and activities were “against the law and morality.” That ruling, sharply criticized by Human Rights Watch, was finally overturned by the country’s Supreme Court of Appeal on 22 January 2009.
During the early 1990s, the organizations’ proposals for cooperation were refused by the Government Human Rights Commission. April 1997, when members of Lambda Istanbul were invited to the National Congress on AIDS, marked the first time a Turkish LGBT organization was represented at the government
level. During early 2000s (decade), new organizations began to be formed in cities other than Istanbul and Ankara, like the Pink Life LGBT Association in Ankara, the Rainbow Group in Antalya and Piramid LGBT Diyarbakir Initiative in Diyarbakir.
In 1996, another LGBT organization, LEGATO, was founded as an organization of Turkish university students, graduates and academicians, with its first office in Middle East Technical University in Ankara. The organization continued to grow with other branches in numerous other universities and a reported 2000 members. In March 2007 LGBT students organized for the first time as a student club (gökkuşağı – in English: rainbow) and Club Gökkuşağı is officially approved by Bilgi University.
During June 2003, the first public LGBT pride march in Turkey’s history, organized by Lambdaistanbul, was held on the Istiklal Avenue. In July 2005, KAOS GL applied to the Ministry of Interior Affairs and gained legal recognition, becoming the first LGBT organization of the country with legal status. During the September of the same year, a lawsuit by the Governor of Ankara was filed to cancel this legal status, but the demand was rejected by the prosecutor. In August 2006, the gay march in Bursa organized by the Rainbow Group, officially approved by the Governor’s Office, was cancelled due to large scale public protests by an organized group of citizens.
The organizations actively participate in AIDS-HIV education programs and May Day parades.
In September 2005, the Ankara Governor’s Office accused KAOS GL of “establishing an organization that is against the laws and principles of morality.” It also attempted in July 2006 to close the human rights group Pink Life LGBT Association (Pembe Hayat), which works with transgender people, claiming to prosecutors that the association opposed “morality and family structure.”. Both charges were ultimately dropped.
In 2006 Lambda Istanbul was evicted from its premises as the landlady was not happy with the fact that the organization was promoting LGBT rights. In 2008, a court case was launched to close down Lambda Istanbul, and although a lower court initially decided in favour of closing down the association, the decision was overruled by the Turkish Constitutional Court and Lambda Istanbul remains open.
Gay sexual conduct between consenting adults in private is not a crime in Turkey. The age of consent for both heterosexual and homosexual sex is 18. The criminal code also has vaguely worded prohibitions on “public exhibitionism,” and “offenses against public morality” that are used to harass gay and transgender people. Turkish towns and cities are given some leeway to enact various “public morality” laws.
For example, it was once reported that in Adana males were prohibited from kissing in public on the cheek. However, there has been no evidence of enforcement of this regulation. Men kissing as a form of greeting is common in Turkey. In 2013 in a court in Istanbul, in a case of a vendor charged with unlawful sale of 125 DVDs depicting gay and group sex pornography, Judge Mahmut Erdemli ruled that gay sex is “natural”, stated that an individual’s sexual orientation should be respected, and cited examples of same-sex marriages in Europe and in the Americas. However, in 2012 the appellate court had said video or photographic depictions of gay sex were “unnatural.”
In Turkey, compulsory military service applies to all male Turkish citizens between the ages of 18 and 41. However, the Turkish military openly discriminates against passive homosexuals by barring them from serving in the military. Active homosexuals and bisexuals can serve in Turkish military. At the same time, Turkey – in violation of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights – withholds any recognition of conscientious objection to military service. Some objectors must instead identify themselves as “sick” – and are forced to undergo what Human Rights Watch calls “humiliating and degrading” examinations to “prove” their homosexuality.
In October 2009 the report of the EU Commission on Enlargement stated:
The Turkish armed forces have a health regulation which defines homosexuality as a ‘psychosexual’ illness and identifies homosexuals as unfit for military service. Conscripts who declare their homosexuality have to provide photographic proof(a photograph of the person on the receiving end or anal intercourse). A small number have had to undergo humiliating medical examinations.
“I believe homosexuality is a biological disorder and this disease needs treatment.”
Selma Aliye Kavaf, Ex-Minister of Women and Family Affairs, 2010
No laws exist yet in Turkey that protect LGBT people from discrimination in employment, education, housing, health care, public accommodations or credit. In October 2009 the report of the EU Commission on Enlargement stated:
There have been several cases of discrimination at the workplace, where LGBT employees have been fired because of their sexual orientation. Provisions of the Turkish Criminal Code on ‘public exhibitionism’ and ‘offences against public morality’ are sometimes used to discriminate against LGBT people. The Law on Misdemeanours is often used to impose fines against transgender persons.
The main opposition CHP proposed gay rights to the Turkish parliament on the 14th of February 2013.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals are among the most vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees in Turkey today.
a Turkish lesbian wedding! Only in Berlin.
Turkey does not recognise same-sex marriages, civil unions or domestic partnership benefits. The Turkish Council of State has ruled that homosexuals should not have custody of children, but it is not a must under the law
Violence, abuse, and harassment
The culture of “honour killings” can be observed in Turkish society families murdering members (usually female) who engage in sexual/moral behaviours regarded as inappropriate. The death of Ahmet Yildiz, 26, may be the first known example of an honour killing with gay male victim. Studies for the years 2007–2009 that the German Democratic Turkey Forum prepared show 13 killings in 2007, 5 in 2008 and at least 4 killings in 2009 related to the sexual identity of the victims. On 21 May 2008 the New York based organization Human Rights Watch published a report entitled “We Need a Law for Liberation”. The report documents how gay men and transgender people face beatings, robberies, police harassment, and the threat of murder. Human Rights Watch found that, in most cases, the response by the authorities is inadequate if not nonexistent. In case of hate murders against homosexuals, courts apply the condition of “heavy provocation” and lower the sentences.
Homosexuality legal Since 1858
Equal age of consent (Age of consent is 18 in Turkey)
Right to change legal gender (Practically never banned, legalised in 1988)
Same-sex marriage(s) (Debated; supported by CHP and BDP while opposed by AKP and MHP)
Recognition of same-sex couples as registered partnerships (Publicly rejected by government members
Joint and step adoption by same-sex couples (Turkish Civil Code demands certain possessory of Turkish moral values for adoption even from single parents)
Gay men and women allowed to serve openly in the military (Gays and lesbians banned from military service and the TAF defines homosexuality as a psychosexual disorder
Anti-discrimination laws (A draft proposed by Ministry of Justice in 2010 but never came into effect)
MSMs allowed to donate blood (Turkish Red Crescent does not allow blood donations from MSM)
Republic Protests took place in 2007 in support of the Kemalist reforms, particularly state secularism anddemocracy.
Secularism in Turkey defines the relationship between religion and state in the country of Turkey. Secularism (or laicity) was first introduced with the 1928 amendment of theConstitution of 1924, which removed the provision declaring that the “Religion of the State is Islam”, and with the later reforms of Atatürk, which set the administrative and political requirements to create a modern, democratic, secular state, aligned with Kemalist ideology.
Nine years after its introduction, laïcité was explicitly stated in the second article of the then Turkish constitution on February 5, 1937. The current Constitution of 1982 neither recognizes an official religion nor promotes any. This includes Islam, to which at least nominally more than 99% of its citizens subscribe.
Turkey’s “laïcité” does not call for a strict separation of religion and the state, but describes the state’s stance as one of “active neutrality.” Turkey’s actions related with religion are carefully analyzed and evaluated through the Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (English: Presidency of Religious Affairs). The duties of the Presidency of Religious Affairs are “to execute the works concerning the beliefs, worship, and ethics of Islam, enlighten the public about their religion, and administer the sacred worshipping places”.
The history of secularism in Turkey extends to the Tanzimat reforms of Ottoman Empire. The second peak in secularism occurred during the Second Constitutional Era. The current form was achieved byAtatürk’s Reforms.
The establishing structure (Ruling institution of the Ottoman Empire) of the Ottoman Empire (13th century) was an Islamic state in which the head of the Ottoman state was the Sultan. The social system was organized around millet. Millet structure allowed a great degree of religious, cultural and ethnic continuity to non-Muslim populations across the subdivisions of the Ottoman Empire and at the same time it permitted their incorporation into the Ottoman administrative, economic and political system. The Ottoman-appointed governor collected taxes and provided security, while the local religious or cultural matters were left to the regional communities to decide. On the other hand, the sultans were Muslims and the laws that bound them were based on the Sharia, the body of Islamic law, as well as various cultural customs. The Sultan, beginning in 1516, was also a Caliph, the leader of all the Sunni Muslims in the world. By the turn of the 19th century the Ottoman ruling elite recognized the need to restructure the legislative, military and judiciary systems to cope with their new political rivals in Europe. When the millet system started to lose its efficiency due to the rise of nationalism within its borders, the Ottoman Empire explored new ways of governing its territory composed of diverse populations.
Sultan Selim III founded the first secular military schools by establishing the new military unit, Nizam-ı Cedid, as early as 1792. However the last century (19th century) of the Ottoman Empire had many far reaching reforms. These reforms peaked with the tanzimat which was the initial reform era of the Ottoman empire. After the tanzimat, rules, such as those relating to the equalized status of non-Muslim citizens, the establishment of a parliament, the abandonment of medieval punishments for apostasy,as well as the codification of the constitution of the empire and the rights of ottoman subjects were established. The First World War brought about the fall of the Ottoman Empireand the subsequent partitioning of the Ottoman Empire by the victorious Allies. Therefore, the Republic of Turkey was actually a nation-state built as a result of an empire lost.
Reforms of Republic
During the establishment of the Republic, there were two sections of the elite group at the helm of the discussions for the future. These were the Islamist reformists and Westerners. They shared a similar goal, the modernization of the new state. Many basic goals were common to both groups. The founder of the modern Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s achievement was to amplify this common ground and put the country on a fast track of reforms, now known as Atatürk’s Reforms.
Their first act was to give the Turkish nation the right to exercise popular sovereignty via representative democracy. Prior to declaring the new Republic, the Turkish Grand National Assembly abolished the constitutional monarchy on November 1, 1922. The Turkish Grand National Assembly then moved to replace the extant Islamic law structure with the laws it had passed during the Turkish War of Independence, beginning in 1919. The modernization of the Law had already begun at the point that the project was undertaken in earnest. A milestone in this process was the passage of the Turkish Constitution of 1921. Upon the establishment of the Republic on October 29, 1923, the institution of theCaliphate remained, but the passage of a new constitution in 1924 effectively abolished this title held by the Ottoman Sultanate since 1517. With the negation of the Caliphate the final vestiges of Islamic Law are regarded as having disappeared from the Turkish landscape. The Caliphate’s powers within Turkey were transferred to the National Assembly and the title has since been inactive. While very unlikely, the Turkish Republic does in theory still retain the right to reinstate the Caliphate, should it ever elect to do so.
Following quickly upon these developments, many social reforms were undertaken. Many of these reforms affected every aspect of Turkish life, moving to erase the legacy of dominance long held by religion and tradition. The Unification of education, installation of a secular education system, and the closure of many religious orders was happened on March 3, 1924. This extended to closure of religious convents and dervish lodges on November 30, 1925. These reforms included the extension to women of voting rights in 1931 and the right to elected office on December 5, 1934. The inclusion of reference to laïcité into the constitution was achieved by an amendment on February 5, 1937, is seen as the final act in the project of instituting complete separation between governmental and religious affairs in Turkey.
The Constitution asserts that Turkey is a secular and democratic republic, deriving its sovereignty from the people. The sovereignty rests with the Turkish Nation, who delegates its exercise to an elected unicameral parliament, theTurkish Grand National Assembly. Moreover, Article 4: declares the immovability the founding principles of the Republic defined in the first three Articles:
1. “secularism, social equality, equality before law”
2. “the Republican form of government”
3. “the indivisibility of the Republic and of the Turkish Nation”,
Constitution bans any proposals for the modification of these articles. Each of these concepts which were distributed in the three articles of the constitution can not be achieved without the other two concepts. The constitution requires a central administration which would lose its meaning (effectiveness, coverage, etc.) if the system is not based on laïcité, social equality, and equality before law. Vice versa, if the Republic differentiate itself based on social, religious differences, administration cannot be equal to the population when the administration is central.The system which tried to be established in the constitution sets out to found a unitary nation-state based on the principles of secular democracy.
Impact on society
The Turkish Constitution recognizes freedom of religion for individuals whereas the religious communities are placed under the protection of state, but the constitution explicitly states that they cannot become involved in the political process (by forming a religious party for instance) and no party can claim that it represents a form of religious belief. Nevertheless, religious sensibilities are generally represented through conservative parties.
In recent history, two parties have been ordered to close (Welfare Party (Turkish: Refah Partisi) in 1998 and Virtue Party (Turkish: Fazilet Partisi) in 2001) by the Constitutional Court for Islamist activities and attempts to “redefine the secular nature of the republic”. The first party to be closed for suspected fundamentalist activities was the Progressive Republican Party on June 3, 1925.
The current governing party in Turkey, the conservative Justice and Development Party (Turkish: Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi or AKP) has often been accused of following an Islamist agenda.
Issues relating to Turkey’s secularism were discussed in the lead up to the 2007 presidential elections, in which the ruling party chose a candidate with Islamic connections, Abdullah Gül, for the first time in its secular republic. While some in Turkey have expressed concern that the nomination could represent a move away from Turkey’s secularist traditions, including particularly Turkey’s priority on equality between the sexes, others have suggested that the conservative party has effectively promoted modernization while reaching out to more traditional and religious elements in Turkish society. On July 22, 2007 it was reported that the more religiously conservative ruling party won a larger than expected electoral victory in the parliamentary elections.
Turkey’s preservation and maintenance of its secular identity has been a profound issue and source of tension. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has spoken out in favor of limited Islamism and against the active restrictions, instituted by Kemal Atatürk on wearing the Islamic-style head scarves in government offices and schools.
The Republic Protests (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Mitingleri) were a series of peaceful mass rallies that took place in Turkey in the spring of 2007 in support of the Kemalist ideals of state secularism.
The constitutional rule that prohibits discrimination on religious grounds is taken very seriously. Turkey, as a secular country, prohibits by law the wearing of religious headcover and theo-political symbolic garments for both genders in government buildings, schools, and universities; a law upheld by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights as legitimate on November 10, 2005 in Leyla Şahin v. Turkey.
The strict application of secularism in Turkey has been credited for enabling women to have access to greater opportunities, compared to countries with a greater influence of religion in public affairs, in matters of education, employment, wealth as well as political, social and cultural freedoms.
Also paradoxical with the Turkish secularism is the fact that Identity document cards of Turkish citizens include the specification of the card holder’s religion. This declaration was perceived for some as representing a form of the state’s surveillance over its citizens’ religious choices.
The mainstream Hanafite school of Sunni Islam is entirely organized by the state, through the Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı (Religious Affairs Directorate), which supervises all mosques, educates the imams who work in them, and approves all content for religious services and prayers. It appoints imams, who are classified as civil servants. This micromanagement of Sunni religious at times seems much more sectarian than secular as it violates the principle of state neutrality in religious practice. Groups that have expressed dissatisfaction with this situation include a variety of extra-governmental Sunni / Hanafi groups (such as the Nurci movement), whose interpretation of Islam tends to be more activist; and the non-Sunni Alevilik, whose members tend to resent supporting the Sunni establishment with their tax monies (the Turkish state does not subsidize Alevi religious activities).
Critics argue that the Turkish state’s support for and regulation of Sunni religious institutions – including mandatory religious education for children deemed by the state to be Muslims – amount to de facto violations of secularism. Debate arises over the issue of to what degree religious observance ought to be restricted to the private sphere – most famously in connection with the issues of head-scarves and religious-based political parties (cf. Welfare Party, AKP). The issue of an independent Greek Orthodox seminary is also a matter of controversy in regard to Turkey’s accession to the European Union, the reason being that it makes no sense for Turkey to completely oppress a small theological education center when it funds thousands more. Also the fact that only Sunni Muslims receive state salaries when working as appointed clergy is another issue being criticised.
Reforms going in the direction of secularism have been completed under Atatürk (abolition of the Caliphate, etc..).
However, Turkey is not strictly a secular state:
• there is no separation between religion and State
• there is a tutelage of religion by the state
However, each is free of his religious beliefs.
Gul at the Ministry of DDiyanet
Religion is mentioned on the identity documents and there is an administration called “Presidency of Religious Affairs” or Diyanet which exploits Islam to legitimize sometimes State and manages 77,500 mosques. This state agency, established by Ataturk (1924), finance only Sunni Muslim worship. Other religions must ensure a financially self-sustaining running and they face administrative obstacles during operation .
When harvesting tax, all Turkish citizens are equal. The tax rate is not based on religion. However, through the “Presidency of Religious Affairs” or Diyanet, Turkish citizens are not equal in the use of revenue. The Presidency of Religious Affairs, which has a budget over U.S. $ 2.5 billion in 2012, finance only Sunni Muslim worship.
This situation presents a theological problem, insofar as the religion of Prophet Muhammad stipulates, through the notion of haram (Qur’an, Surah 6, verse 152), that we must “give full measure and full weight in all justice”.
However, since it was set up, Diyanet, through taxation, use the resources of non-Sunni citizens to fund its administration and only Sunni places of worship.
For exemple, Câferî Muslims (mostly Azeris) and Alevi Bektashi (mostly Turkmen) participate in the financing of the mosques and the salaries of Sunni imams, while their places of worship, which are not officially recognized by the State, don’t receive any funding.
Theoretically, Turkey, through the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), recognizes the civil, political and cultural rights of non-Muslim minorities.
In practice, Turkey only recognizes Greek, Armenian and Jewish religious minorities without granting them all the rights mentioned in the Treaty of Lausanne.
Alevi Bektashi Câferî Muslims, Latin Catholics and Protestants
are not recognized officially.
Situation of religions in Turkey
Religions Estimated population
Official recognition through the Constitution or international treaties Government Financing of places of worship and religious staff
Islam – Sunnite
70 to 85% (52 to 64 millions)
Twelver Islam – Bektasi
15 to 25% (11 to 19 millions)
Twelver Islam – Alevi Câferî
4% (3 millions)
Christian – Protestant
Christian – Orthodox – Armenian (Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople)
Christian – Catholics Chaldean Christians (Armenian)
Christian – Syriac Orthodox and Catholics Churches
In 2013, with over 4.6 billion TL (Turkish Lira), Diyanet or Ministry of Religious Affairs, occupies the 16th position of central government expenditure. The budget allocated to Diyanet is:
Diyanet’s Budget in 2013 – Source : TBMM, Turkish Parliament, 2013.
• 1.6 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of the Interior
• 1.8 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Health
• 1.9 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Industry, Science and Technology
• 2.4 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Planning
• 2.5 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism
• 2.9 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
• 3.4 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Economy
• 3.8 times larger than the budget of the Ministry of Development
• 4.6 times larger than the budget allocated to MIT – Secret Services
• 5,0 times larger than the budget allocated to the Department of Emergency and Disaster Management
• 7.7 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources
• 9.1 times larger than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Customs and Trade
• 10.7 times greater than the budget allocated to Coast Guard
• 21.6 times greater than the budget allocated to the Ministry of the European Union
• 242 times larger than the budget for the National Security Council
• 268 times more important than the budget allocated to the Ministry of Public Employee
Diyanet’s budget represents:
• 79% of the budget of the Police
• 67% of the budget of the Ministry of Justice
• 57% of the budget of the Public Hospitals
• 31% of the budget of the National Police
• 23% of the budget of the Turkish Army, that is 23% of the budget of NATO’s second army.
Many of the passages citations can be found at the UNHCR
With a policy of official secularism, the Turkish government has traditionally banned the wearing of headscarves by women who work in the public sector. The ban applies to teachers, lawyers, parliamentarians and others working on state premises. The ban on headscarves in the civil service and educational and political institutions was expanded to cover non-state institutions. Authorities began to enforce the headscarf ban among mothers accompanying their children to school events or public swimming pools, while female lawyers and journalists who refused to comply with the ban were expelled from public buildings such as courtrooms and universities In 1999, the ban on headscarves in the public sphere hit the headlines when Merve Kavakçı, a newly elected MP for the Virtue Party was prevented from taking her oath in the National Assembly because she wore a headscarf. The constitutional rule that prohibits discrimination on religious grounds is taken very seriously. Turkey, as a secular country, prohibits by law the wearing of religious headcover and theo-political symbolic garments for both genders in government buildings, schools, and universities; a law upheld by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights as legitimate on November 10, 2005 in Leyla Şahin v. Turkey.
According to Country Reports 2007, women who wore headscarves and their supporters “were disciplined or lost their jobs in the public sector” (US 11 March 2008, Sec. 2.c). Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that in late 2005, the Administrative Supreme Court ruled that a teacher was not eligible for a promotion in her school because she wore a headscarf outside of work (Jan. 2007). An immigration counsellor at the Embassy of Canada in Ankara stated in 27 April 2005 correspondence with the Research Directorate that public servants are not permitted to wear a headscarf while on duty, but headscarved women may be employed in the private sector. In 12 April 2005 correspondence sent to the Research Directorate, a professor of political science specializing in women’s issues in Turkey at Bogazici University in Istanbul indicated that women who wear a headscarf “could possibly be denied employment in private orgovernment sectors.” Conversely, some municipalities with a more traditional constituency might attempt to hire specifically those women who wear a headscarf (Professor 12 April 2005). The professor did add, however, that headscarved women generally experience difficulty in obtaining positions as teachers, judges, lawyers, or doctors in the public service (ibid.). More recent or corroborating information on the headscarf ban in the public service could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
The London-based Sunday Times reports that while the ban is officially in place only in the public sphere, many private firms similarly avoid hiring women who wear headscarves (6 May 2007). MERO notes that women who wear headscarves may have more difficulty finding a job or obtaining a desirable wage (Apr. 2008), although this could not be corroborated among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
According to the Sunday Times, headscarves are banned inside Turkish hospitals, and doctors may not don a headscarf on the job (6 May 2007). Nevertheless, MERO reports that under Turkey’s current administration, seen by secularists to have a hidden religious agenda (The New York Times 19 February 2008; Washington Post 26 February 2008), doctors who wear headscarves have been employed in some public hospitals (MERO Apr. 2008).
On 9 February 2008, Turkey’s parliament approved a constitutional amendment that lifted the ban on Islamic headscarves in universities. Prior to this date, the public ban on headscarves officially extended to students on university campuses throughout Turkey. Nevertheless, according to Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007, “some faculty members permitted students to wear head coverings in class”. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty notes that since the 1990s, some rectors have allowed students to wear headscarves.
On 5 June 2008, Turkey’s Constitutional Court annulled the parliament’s proposed amendment intended to lift the headscarf ban, ruling that removing the ban would run counter to official secularism. While the highest court’s decision to uphold the headscarf ban cannot be appealed (AP 7 June 2008), the government has nevertheless indicated that it is considering adopting measures to weaken the court’s authority.
Wearing of head-covering
According to the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation around 62% of women wear the headscarf in Turkey.
Turkey’s strong secularism has resulted in what have been perceived by some as strictures on the freedom of religion; for example, the headscarf has long been prohibited in public universities, and a constitutional amendment passed in February 2008 that permitted women to wear it on university campuses sparked considerable controversy.
In addition, the armed forces have maintained a vigilant watch over Turkey’s political secularism, which they affirm to be a keystone among Turkey’s founding principles. The military has not left the maintenance of a secular political process to chance, however, and has intervened in politics on a number of occasions