Requesting Your Assistance: Protect the Right to Wear Hijab

By Zeynep Kandur, Ä°stanbul, Turkey

To the Editor:


Women shout slogans to protest against a ban on the wearing Islamic head scarves in universities, in Ankara, Turkey.  Photograph by Burhan Ozbilici, AP

In response to the letter written by Professor Carol Delaney, dated October 9, 2013:

Professor Delaney claims that the lifting of the ban by the Turkish government on headscarves in government offices is not a step towards democracy, but rather a step on the slippery slope towards the Islamist state Prime Minster Erdogan desires.

First of all, let it be stated for the record that Prime Minister Erdogan has never expressed a desire to establish an Islamic state. After ten years of single-party rule, AK Party has made no move towards an Islamic state.

The lifting of the headscarf ban is something that has directly affected 65% of the adult female population in Turkey; to classify this as undemocratic is beyond comprehension. During the summer Gezi Park events, a letter was posted on Change. Org (link newsdetail?7/guncel/basortusuz-kadinlardan-basortusune-ozgurluk-bildirisi/haber-221420). The letter, signed by a large number of secular women, states that any form of discrimination between covered and non-covered women in Turkey is unacceptable.

For decades covered women have been denied equal rights; they have been prevented from pursuing further education. They have been denied the right to pursue a career in public employment. More insidiously, they were even prevented from attending graduation ceremonies for their children or loved ones, or seeking services from public offices. The end result was that covered women, who form a majority of the adult female population in Turkey, were marginalized in their own nation.

It is time that this politicization of the headscarf in Turkey comes to an end. The headscarf was made into a political symbol when it was banned in government offices. It was not politicized by those who wore it. It was politicized by those who wanted to remove it from the public sphere. The lifting of the ban is an attempt to restore balance in society.Indeed, the proposed regulations include a punishment for those who force women to remove their headscarves, as well as for those who force women to wear headscarves.

The claim that the headscarf in Turkey differs from the West is unacceptable. Throughout Turkey women from all levels of education, academics, business women and artists, wear the headscarf as an expression of their sincere belief. To suggest that these women are being manipulated or forced into wearing the headscarf is denigrating their belief and their intelligence. Moreover, how one interprets the command to cover in the Qur’an is surely a matter of personal choice, and cannot be dictated by another, in particular a person outside the religion.

Here Professor Delaney has taken advantage of her academic identity while abandoning the principle of objectivity. What she has written is reminiscent of Orientalism, a sociological approach that blatantly denigrated Eastern cultures. This can only mean that there are still people who continue to see non-Western societies as being made up of second-class beings who are in need of civilization. This reflects poorly both on Professor Delaney and on the field of anthropology.

It is time that the issue of the headscarf is removed from the agenda. It is time that women are allowed to make their own choice about wearing or not wearing a headscarf. It is time that the headscarf becomes a personal decision, not a political one.

Zeynep Jane Louise Kandur (translator, teacher)

Tugba Ercan (teacher)

AyÅŸe KardaÅŸ (advisor to the Prime Minister)

Assistant Professor Åžule Albayrak (university lecturer)


Please go to and sign the petition.


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