Erdoğan asks for constitutional amendment on right to wear headscarf in public after CHP leader’s call

Turkey’s President Erdoğan has called for a constitutional amendment on the right to wear headscarf in public, after the main opposition CHP submitted a draft law on the issue.

Duvar English

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Oct. 5 called for a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to wear headscarf for women.

The move came after the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on Oct. 4 submitted a draft law with regards to the issue.

CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu had made the announcement on his social media account via a video on Oct. 3. 

Commenting on Kılıçdaroğlu’s announcement, Erdoğan said during a parliamentary group meeting of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP): "If you are honest, if you are determined to solve the headscarf issue, which is a fundamental human right, let's provide the solution at the constitutional level, not the law. I instruct my friends. My colleagues in the Constitutional Commission, especially my Justice Minister, will prepare their work.” 

“Frankly, we had a hard time understanding why this person (referring to Kılıçdaroğlu) came up with such an offer. Because we have solved this issue, which once reached the level of persecution. Is there such an issue in universities or other educational levels in our country at the moment? No. Is there such an issue regarding all our sisters, from judges to prosecutors, academics, officers and police, who are currently working in the public or private sector in our country? No,” Erdoğan said. 

Erdoğan further said: “Kemal, do you think you will solve this problem by taking two (people with) headscarves next to you, (making them party members)? If there has been such an embarrassing issue like the headscarf issue in the past, it is because of the CHP mentality, CHP fascism.”

“We overcame all obstacles despite them. Despite them, we solved the Kurdish issue. We do not have a problem called the Kurdish issue anymore. I have two Kurdish friends in the cabinet. Hopefully, we will take new steps for our Alevi brothers this week,” Erdoğan added.

Political scientist and Gazete Duvar columnist Ülkü Doğanay said that the latest developments might work in favor of the government because it carries the electoral competition to the area where Erdoğan is most dominant and powerful.

"Erdoğan not only says that there is no headscarf problem during his rule, but also talks about making new regulations that will strengthen the family institution as a proposal for the constitutional amendment. Even if this change is not passed by the Parliament before the election, it will be a part of an election campaign of the AKP," Doğanay commented.

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

The ruling AKP lifted the headscarf ban for students in universities in 2010 and for public employees in 2013.

Now, there are allegations by the AKP figures that the CHP would reban headscarf if it won the general elections scheduled to take place in June 2023.