Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Disclaimer: The Parliamentary Library does not warrant or accept liability for the accuracy or usefulness of the transcripts. These are copied directly from the broadcaster's website.
Turkish court deciding on headscarves -

View in ParlViewView other Segments

Turkish court deciding on headscarves

The World Today - Tuesday, 29 July , 2008 12:38:00

Reporter: Ben Knight

ELEANOR HALL: Turkey's democratically elected government is awaiting on the outcome of a court case
that could see it removed from office over its decision to allow women to wear Islamic headscarves
to university.

The Constitutional Court is deliberating over whether the ruling Islamic-based AKP was trying to
establish Sharia law by stealth.

The AKP won the election last year, but its critics say it was not given a mandate to bypass the
country's strictly secular constitution.

Middle East correspondent Ben Knight reports.

BEN KNIGHT: When modern Turkey was born in the aftermath of World War I, it was in the image of its
creator, Kemal Ataturk who set the country facing firmly to the West dressing it in European
clothes, and enshrining secularism in its constitution.

And since then, any hint of bringing religion into Turkey's Government has been snuffed out usually
by the army, with support from nationalist lawyers, academics and others.

And now, it may be about to happen again. Despite having won two democratic elections, Turkey's AK
Party has been brought before the country's Constitutional Court, accused of being the focal point
for anti-secular activities.

One of the arguments against it is its failed attempt to lift the ban on the hijab - the Islamic
headscarf in the county's state universities.

The AKP acknowledges its Islamic roots, but one of its deputies, Cuneyt Yuksel, strongly denies
it's anything but a defender of secular, democratic values.

CUNEYT YUKSEL: The only thing we did was to allow women to wear headscarves at the universities and
we don't regret any of the acts that we should democratise or give freedom to our people.

BEN KNIGHT: Professor Ali Carkoglu from Istanbul's Sabanci University says the headscarf issue is
the fault line for deep divisions in Turkey over the country's identity.

ALI CARKOGLU: For someone looking at this from outside, it may sound like a joke because we have in
effect, only a couple of thousand of students who are currently covered but the issue is sole
ordered that those who are covered feel that this is one of their (inaudible) rights.

BEN KNIGHT: It wouldn't be the first time that a religious party has been removed from office in
Turkey, what's different about this case?

ALI CARKOGLU: If they get called down then we'll have for the first time a majority party thrown
out of the parliament basically.

BEN KNIGHT: And if that happens, if the AK party is removed from power, what is that going to mean
for Turkey?

ALI CARKOGLU: No matter how legally this decision might be justified, the real decision will have
to be the conviction on the part of the largest population. And they have to be convinced that the
decision is justified.

BEN KNIGHT: And if they're not?

ALI CARKOGLU: They're alienation from the system could get deeper and that has to be dealt with
eventually in the system.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Professor Ali Carkoglu from Istanbul's Sabanci University ending that report
from our Middle East correspondent Ben Knight.