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Hijab of contention: Erdogan called for the inclusion of a women’s headscarf in the constitution

Before the 2023 presidential election, Turkish parties have already started waving the hijab to distract the voter from economic problems.

Before the presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for 2023, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposedto submit to a referendum the issue of enshrining in the constitution the right to wear a hijab – a Muslim headscarf for women. Hijab in general is now becoming a symbol of change in the Islamic world. Protests continue in Iran for the right not to wear the hijab, in Western Europe Muslims demand not to ban the wearing of the hijab, and now the wave has reached Turkey, where until 2013 there was a restriction on the wearing of headscarves in state institutions, schools and universities, thus emphasizing the secular nature Republic of Turkey according to the precepts of its founder, Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk). At the same time, the Kemalists, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), had earlier promised that if they won the 2023 elections, they would not ban the hijab.

Forward Erdogan
For ordinary Turks, the topic of the hijab has long ceased to be a cause of controversy and division. Statistics from the Turkish Center for Strategic and Social Research Metropoll show that more than 83% of the country’s population is in favor of women having the right to wear the hijab. However, in early October CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu posted a video on social media, in which he acknowledged that his party had made many mistakes in its long history and called for reconciliation with the people. One of the steps taken to bring the Kemalists closer to the religious part of the population was the introduction of a bill that would guarantee the right of women to wear headscarves anywhere. At the same time, Kılıçdaroğlu hoped to attract Erdogan’s supporters, who seem to support the Islamic political course, but are tired of the economic crisis in the country.

Women cannot be forced to wear or not to wear any clothes other than a robe, overalls or uniform, which are necessary due to the nature of the profession , the bill says .

In this way, the CHP tried to outplay Erdogan, who constantly reminded his voters how secular Turkish politicians in the past did not allow believing Muslim women to wear the hijab. However, the initiative of the CHP came out ambiguous. On the one hand, it did not greatly please the traditional electorate of the party, who saw in this step a departure from secularism, which is extremely important for the party, as it is one of the six postulates of Kemalism. These postulates are even marked with six arrows on the CHP flag. On the other hand, believers still have not forgotten how fiercely Kılıçdaroğlu previously defended the ban on the hijab.

The headscarf poses a threat to modern democracy and is detrimental to public order, social peace and unity , the CHP leader said in 2008.

Hijab of contention: Erdogan called for the inclusion of a women’s headscarf in the constitution
Photo: shutterstock
Meanwhile, the experienced politician Erdogan took advantage of the Kemalist hype. At first, he said that the issue of freedom of the hijab in Turkey had long been resolved thanks to the efforts of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Then he proposed to fix the right to wear a headscarf in the constitution itself, and, if necessary, to bring this issue to a national referendum.

If you have the courage, let’s put this issue to a referendum. Let the people decide ,” Erdogan said on Saturday, addressing Kılıçdaroğlu.

It is not surprising that with such loud statements by the ruling president, everyone quickly forgot that the Kemalists had originally proposed a bill on the hijab.

Kılıçdaroğlu, without knowing it, handed me the ball and I had to score a goal. He doesn’t understand that I spent my life as a striker ,” the Turkish president told the press (Erdogan was a semi-professional striker in the district team in his youth and the Fenerbahce club even wanted to pick him up).

Later, Kılıçdaroğlu directly accused Erdoğan of changing everything and starting to talk about things not related to the hijab, just to “keep covered women hostage.”

You are insincere, you are repressive, you are a despot. You will never surprise us , ” Kılıçdaroğlu told Erdoğan, adding that there is no real need to hold a referendum, as it is enough for the ruling party to support the CHP bill.

The last time a referendum was held in Turkey in 2017, when the issue of the country’s transition from a parliamentary to a presidential form of government was decided. Then Erdogan, by the way, in order to win over the Muslim electorate, also went on the attack – he spoke out against LGBT people, proposing to enshrine in the constitution that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and nothing else, in order to “protect the nation from deviant and perverted tendencies and allow the Turkish people to “look to the future with confidence.”

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Turkish opposition Kemalis party CHP.
Photo: Dil Toffolo/Global Look Press
Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the Turkish opposition Kemalis party CHP.
You can’t cover inflation with a hijab
Thanks to the “passed ball”, Erdogan to some extent managed to take the laurels for himself, but this does not mean that the population has forgotten about the country’s economic problems, Turkish political analyst Iqbal Durre told NEWS.ru. Nevertheless, the main problem of Turkey today is not the hijab, but galloping inflation. In June alone, according to official data, it amounted to 78.62%, while independent experts even speak of an increase of 175.55%.

Yes, of course, there is the issue of Islamization of the country. This topic is very often raised by Kemalists, but the hijab is beyond its scope. We can say that the issue of hijab has already been resolved from the point of view of practice. Therefore, it is unlikely that this situation will affect the growth of Erdogan’s electorate. Economic issues will play the main role , – the Turkish political scientist believes.

It is noteworthy that while they are trying to legalize the hijab in Turkey, the opposite process is taking place in Iran, where the people have been protesting against the authorities for a long time, including because of the law obliging women to wear a headscarf. According to Durre, the Turks are sympathetic to the protesting Persians.

In Turkey, of course, there are radical elements that have intensified in recent years, but still the society there is secular. Turks are much more loyal to the hijab. Even if a woman in Turkey wears a hijab, in most cases she does it for traditional reasons, not religious ones. Women’s freedom is very important in Turkey, so the people now, to put it mildly, do not sympathize with the Iranian authorities , concluded Durre.

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