The intersection of religion and politics has always been a volatile subject in Turkey. From the first years of the Republic to the present day, political leaders have had to balance the secular interests of the state with the religious beliefs of the public. Historically, it has been the religious public who has carried the brunt of this balancing act, specifically women. For decades, Muslim women wearing headscarves for religious reasons were fenced out of the public sphere because of a belief that their outwardly manifested religious beliefs threatened the secular structure of the Republic. They could not attend schools, hold office, or work in government offices if they chose to wear a headscarf. In 2013, most of these barriers were lifted through a by-law allowing headscarf-wearing women to work in most government offices. Although a step in the right direction, the by-law falls short of creating an equal space for all women as it continues to keep headscarf-wearing women out of crucial state offices, including the military, the judiciary, and the police force. With such limitations, the by-law reinforces the belief that headscarf-wearing women are not welcome in all public spaces.
Kerime S. Akoglu,
Piecemeal Freedom: Why the Headscarf Ban Remains in Place in Turkey,
B.C. Int'l & Comp. L. Rev.