As the new academic year begins in
Turkey, thousands of female students are being prevented from entering their
universities and colleges because they want to wear the Islamic style
The students say their human rights
are being infringed but influential figures in the state education system
insist that wearing the scarf is a statement of political intent and current
them to ban it.
A ban on beards was lifted but the
headscarf ban remains. On the first day of term at the beginning of the week
men wearing beards were also banned because facial hair is seen by some
defenders of Turkish secularism as an statement of Islamic
Now the beards have been let in but the women wearing headscarves are still
There are protests at state universities around the country, but it is a mixed
Some faculties at Ankara university for example are not enforcing a ban. It
all depends on individual decisions made by professors and administrators.
The secular elite which has ruled
modern Turkey for more than 75 years says the head scarf has become a
disruptive political symbol.
The students involved insist they wear the scarf because of their religious
beliefs, not because of political
It is an issue which goes to the heart of Turkey's complex effort to define
the role of the state and the role of
religion in society.
And as the dispute goes on it is claiming many victims. One human rights group
estimates that last year alone more than 16,000 women were prevented from
entering universities or taking
exams because they refused to remove their scarves
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