The Covered Truth of Turkey; Field Research On The Headscarf Ban

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20 October 2007

The headscarf ban in Turkey has been a widely discussed topic for the past 40 years. Hazar Education Culture and Solidarity Foundation conducted the most comprehensive research on the headscarf ban in Turkey. Ankara Social Research Centre (ANAR) conducted questionnaire on behalf of Hazar Foundation.

The target group is between 18-50 year old women who were affected by the headscarf ban in one stage of their education life ranging from high school studies to post graduate studies. The research was conducted in January and February of 2007 in Adana, Ankara, Bursa, Diyarbakir, Erzurum, Istanbul, Izmir, Konya and Samsun cities. There were 1112 interviewees and the questionnaires were conducted during face-to-face interviews.

The results of the research were shared with the public on 20 October 2007 in Merter Green Park Hotel during a panel. Media representatives, Non-governmental institutions and public attended this panel.

Prof. Richard Falk gave the opening speech of the program. Prof. Umit Meric chaired the first session. The speakers of the first session were Prof. Dr. Naci Bostancı,
Prof. Dr. Mümtaz’er Türköne
 and Prof. Dr. Hilal Elver Yıldız Ramazanoglu chaired the second session. The speakers of the second session were Prof. Dr. Melek Göregenli,
 Dr. Ferhat Kentel and Dr. Ayşe Güveli. The speakers shared the results of the research in this session.

Many of Turkey’s issues were covered under this headscarf ban

The president of Hazar Education, Culture and Solidarity Foundation, Ayla Kerimoglu gave the opening speech. She said “The bans started in 1967 and extended into the headscarf ban in the 80’s.  The headscarf was no longer just a hijab but was even called in derogatory terms like turban. The ban grounded itself in secularism, political imagery, sexism, fears about the future and claims on struggle against anti-republican sentiments. Thus, freedom of religion, clothing preferences and most importantly freedom of education was taken away from women.”

She added, “Women’s clothing was made the center of political arena. Thus, the hijabi girls were put in the center of tension. There was a constant tension between the ban makers and the people the resisted against this ban. However it was the women in headscarves that lost this battle all along this tension. You would be punished if you were a hijabi student, official, lawyer, and teacher. However it went far beyond that. You would be affected from this ban if you were a hijabi wife or a hijabi mother as well.”

Kerimoglu stated that freedoms were restricted by the 1982 constitution. Women in headscarf had their lives under restrictions for the past 20 years and this ban and restriction gave benefits to a certain group of people. She said, “These people feared that their lives would be intervened and restricted. For this reason, they considered that they had the right to do the same to a targeted group and restrict their lives.”

She added everyone realizes that this ban had no legal and reasonable ground. “When we put education at the upmost importance, how come we restrict the right of young girls in education? Isn’t this against the human rights? Wouldn’t this be a sexist attempt to control women’s access to education?”

She stated that the results of this research could be an important first step in the positive direction and added that we should learn about the diversity and how to live together despite of our differences.


Approaches about the headscarf

Women in headscarf do not like the term “turban” , a derogatory term used for hijab in media and public sphere. %79.4 of the interviewees call hijab as headscarf. Only %6 used the term turban.

Research results show that %97.7 of the participants said they considered headscarf as a religious obligation and practiced it for this reason.

%62.2 percent of the participants said they took the decision to wear the headscarf on their own. This number implies that religious practice habits within the family have an effect on young women. %97.9 percent of the participants said their mother also wears the headscarf. %95.5 percent of the participants said they would want their daughters to practice the headscarf as well. These numbers show that the headscarf does not have a political ground or stance.

Approaches about the headscarf ban

Even though the headscarf ban was implemented to decrease the number of women that choose to practice it, this did not happen. Only %1.2 percent of women decided to unveil instantly after the headscarf ban. %40.5 percent of women have never unveiled after the ban was implemented. %35 percent of women chose to take of their scarves inside schools or work place. %19.9 percent of women decided to wear hats or wigs to replace their headscarf inside schools and work places.

%16.6 percent of women decided to go to the court for their problem. However %76.2 did not go to any legal authority. When this group was asked why they did not choose to go to the court, %62.8 percent replied that they did not trust the justice system.

Discrimination Due To The Headscarf Ban

All participants agreed that they faced discrimination due to the headscarf ban except for a %4.5 percent. The most common examples they gave were discrimination at the workplace (%51.5), not being able to attend certain events because of their headscarf (%50.6), being discriminated against in the society over all by a group of people in public sphere (%36.5). A significant amount of participants stated that they were harassed on the streets both verbally and physically due to their headscarf (%28.1).

The headscarf ban also had an impact on the work life of the participants. %20.8 percent of the women could not find work because of their headscarf. %17.8 percent were forced to stay in the background at the work place because of their headscarf. %17.1 of the participants were forced to work in a job outside of their profession.

The biggest impact the headscarf ban had on the participants was psychological. Only %3.8 of the participants said they did not suffer psychologically because of the ban. The rest of the participants suffered psychologically.

%11.7 percent of the participants did not reply to the question on injustice in education. %16.1 percent said they did not face injustice. The rest of the participants said they suffered injustice in education because of the headscarf ban. 1 out of every 4 participants said they faced harassment at school and the same percentage had to quit school because of the ban. %19.3 said their grades and success at school went low because of the ban.

Headscarf and Modernism

The majority of the participants said they want to live in Turkey (%91.1). European Union countries came at the second place with %23.1 percent and Saudi Arabia came at the third place with %19.2 percent. Only %7.5 percent said they would want to live in Iran.

%39.6 percent of the participants supports the policy on membership on the EU and %36.8 percent said they were against Turkey’s efforts to enter the EU. The number of the supporters of the EU membership is strikingly lower than the average number of supporters in Turkey.

It is observed that women in headscarf hold modern values in a lot of spheres. Only %3.2 percent of the participants said a woman’s place is her home. %6 percent of participants said they consider polygamy to be a natural way of living. %3.9 percent of participants said honor killing is understandable. %77 percent of women said it is possible to be religious without practicing the headscarf.

According to the research, %98.6 percent of participants said they believe women should be able to choose their own spouse. %85.6 percent of participants said women should be free to work for her economic independence. %87.5 percent of the participants said women and men should have equal rights and responsibilities.

According to the research, women in headscarf have very liberal approaches with other women. Only %12.4 percent of the participants said they only feel comfortable around other women in headscarves. % 85.6 percent of the participants said they do not consider clothing preferences in friendship. %95.6 believe the headscarf should be idolized or demonized as a means of political gain. You can look at the report for further information.

Önceki Yazı

Wo/Men For Women Project

Sonraki Yazı

Touch Life: Write, Direct and Film

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