Turkey’s ruling AK Party lawmakers Nurcan Dalbudak (centre) and Sevde Beyazit Kacar (right) attend the general assembly wearing their headscarves at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara.
ANKARA: Four female lawmakers from Turkey’s Islamist-rooted ruling party wore Islamic headscarves in parliament yesterday in a challenge to the country’s secular tradition.
Fellow Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmakers kissed and hugged the women as they took their seats in the general assembly. Secularist opponents made only subdued protests, a far cry from chaotic scenes in 1999, the last time a female MP wore a headscarf in parliament.
The headscarf is an emotive symbol in Turkey, viewed by secularists as the emblem of political Islam and its appearance in public life as an affront to the Turkish Republic’s secular foundations set up by founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
There are no specific restrictions on wearing the headscarf in parliament. But opposition from secularists as well as a ban in other state institutions, which was lifted this month, have previously deterred women from wearing them.
“We are going to witness the start of an important era and we will play the leading role, we will be the standard-bearers, this is very important,” Nurcan Dalbudak, one of the four AKP lawmakers, said before attending parliament.
Opponents accuse the AKP of using the head scarf for political gain and to garner support ahead of an election cycle. Dalbudak dismissed the accusations, saying her decision had been based solely on personal belief. “I am very happy and proud because I am completing one of the foremost duties required of me. I am experiencing an inner peace because of this,” she said. REUTERS