ANKARA – Reviving a decade old debate, three Turkish lawmakers have announced their plans to attend parliament sessions in hijab, sparking secularists’ uproar and calls to protect the country’s ‘secularism’.
“I have completed my hajj duty and returned to Turkey wearing a headscarf," Konya deputy Gülay Samancı was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency.
"From now on, I will continue my life in this way. Turkey has taken enormous steps in accepting the people with their differences and respecting their lifestyle and thoughts.
"Thus, I don't believe that there is any problem with people accepting each other for wearing the things they want according to their beliefs or choices.”
Samanci, a parliament member of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was not the only lawmaker to take this decision.
Along with Konya’s deputy, Denizli Deputy Nurcan Dalbudak and Kahramanmaraş Deputy Sevde Beyazıt Kaçar announced their plans to attend Parliament wearing the hijab.
Hijab, an obligatory code of dress, has been banned in public buildings, universities, schools and government buildings in Muslim-majority Turkey since shortly after a 1980 military coup.
Turkey’s secular elite, including army generals, judges and university rectors, staunchly oppose easing the hijab ban.
In 2008, Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AK) passed a constitutional change easing restrictions on hijab at university.
Later in November 2012, Turkey has lifted a decades-long ban on wearing hijab in Islamic schools which came into effect for the first time in the school year 2013-2014.
Last September, Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the lift of hijab ban in state institutions, except for judges, prosecutors, police officers and army members, as part of an amendment to the law’s fifth article.
The hijab ban end came along with a series of domestic reforms which were revealed among the much-anticipated democratization package.
After lifting hijab ban last September, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek stated that there is no 'legal ban' of hijab in the parliament bylaws so far.
Previously, Erdogan said that Parliament’s internal regulations didn't prohibit hijab in the chamber.
The lawmakers’ position was immediately condemned by Turkish main opposition party Republican People's Party (CHP) which vowed 'not to allow' hijab in parliament.
“We will not let this happen. We will protect Parliament. We will protect Parliament's traditions and stance," CHP Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu said at a press conference on Monday, October 28, World Bulletin reported.
"The CHP will do whatever necessary by using all authority given by parliamentary bylaws."
CHP has also warned to use 'internal parliamentary regulations' to prevent the AKP veiled MPs from attending sessions.
"If they enter Parliament’s General Assembly wearing headscarves, we will open a procedural debate due to a violation of Parliament’s internal regulations," Engin Altay, CHP deputy parliamentary group chair, told Hurriyet Daily News.
“We will voice our objections before the eyes of the people, regardless of whether they will be accepted or not.
“We will use all of our rights originating from internal regulations. We have reached an agreement on this issue with our chairman [Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu].”
The CHP announced to hold an 'emergency' parliamentary group meeting on Wednesday to discuss the topic.
On the other hand, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) leaders have declared their acceptance to veiled MPs in the parliament.
The new controversy revived that of Merve Kavakçı who was elected as an Istanbul deputy for the Virtue Party (FP) in 1999.
Being Turkey's first veiled deputy, Kavakçı was subsequently bannered from taking the parliamentary oath for wearing hijab.
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