“Turkey’s Political Tensions Weigh on Women’s Heads”

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That’s the title of this essay by Yiga Schleifer about the headscarf issue in Turkey. Below is an excerpt:

… The issue has become especially contentious among Turkish women’s organizations. Some of the most vocal protests against the lifting of the headscarf ban have been led by women’s groups affiliated with Turkey’s secularist establishment. They are opposed by the country’s handful of Islamic women’s organizations. Stuck in the middle are Turkey’s unaffiliated women’s rights groups. So far, they have been only able to hold their own counsel.

“There is a lot of talk internally, but we have been silent on this issue,” said Pinar Ilkkaracan, founding president of the Istanbul-based Women for Women’s Human Rights, one of Turkey’s leading women’s advocacy groups. “We have not been able to come up with a clear position on the headscarf issue because we have not been able to come up with a common position with women activists in the Islamic movement.”

Over the last few years, organizations in Turkey’s women’s rights and Islamic movements have started developing closer relations. They worked together, for example, on pushing for expanded women’s rights in a new penal code passed by the Turkish parliament in 2004, which among other things imposes tougher sentences for the murder of women by their family members in “honor killings.”

But the polarizing effect of the head-scarf issue has been seen as a setback by female activists. …

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