Turkey: Erdogan calls for referendum on right to wear headscarves

The debate over wearing headscarves raged recently in Turkey ahead of elections scheduled for 2023.

Ankara: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday proposed holding a referendum to establish a constitutional guarantee of the right to wear a headscarf in state institutions, schools and universities.

This came in response to Turkish main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairperson Kemal Kilicdaroglu law proposal to guarantee the right to wear the headscarf.

Speaking in the city of Malatya in southeastern Turkey on Saturday, Erdogan said, “If you have the courage, come, let’s submit it to a referendum. Let the nation decide.”

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Erdogan directed his invitation to Kilicdaroglu to work on including the issue of the headscarf in the country’s constitution, instead of just proposing the issuance of a law that guarantees that the freedom to wear the headscarf will not be violated.

Erdogan addressed his speech to Kilicdaroglu, saying, “If you are honest and sincere in your proposal, and if you want to remove the issue of the headscarf from controversy as a human right, then come to achieve this not through law, but with a constitutional amendment.”

“We will soon send a constitutional amendment to Parliament… but if the matter is not resolved in Parliament, we will present it to the people,” he added.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu response to Erdogan’s call

CHP Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu responded to the statements made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Saturday, October 22.

Kilicdaroglu, in his statement on Twitter, said, “What happened, are you going to play a fake Orban, Erdogan? This is Turkey, not Hungary. Support the law proposal, not the referendum. If you don’t escape, this issue will be solved. Do you have that courage?” 

President Erdogan on October 5 called for a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to wear headscarves for women, after the CHP on October 4 submitted a draft law with regards to the issue.

Recently, the issue of “the hijab in Turkey” topped the internal political scene, after Kemal Kilicdaroglu, announced his party’s intention to submit a bill to Parliament that would guarantee the legality of the headscarf in the country.

The CHP’s move came amid allegations that it would ban the headscarf again if the CHP wins the general elections scheduled for June 2023.

The issue of the headscarf ban occupied an important place in public and political debates in Turkey during the 1990s and 2000s.

The headscarf ban in Turkey was first implemented extensively in the 1980s but became stricter after 1997 when the military forced the conservative government to resign in an incident later dubbed a “postmodern coup” on February 28.

It was gradually lifted for students in universities after 2010, while the ban for public employees was lifted in 2013 and the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) changed the regulation on June 1, 2015, allowing female judges wearing headscarves to conduct hearings.

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