AKP government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s leadership decided a couple of weeks ago to abolish the ban on allowing women to wear the traditional Islamic headscarf while attending higher education. This move from the government was more than enough to change the primary agenda of the people. Suddenly everyone started to write, broadcast and talk about the headscarf issue. The mighty secularists and the devout Islamists came face to face for another showdown. The operation in Northern Iraq or the upcoming elections in Cyprus suddenly became insignificant events for the media. No one talks about the “Brave martyrs of the nation who gave their lives fighting against the Kurdish PKK militia”. Not anymore.
If you go to a Turkish university, it is possible to see girls in the campus wearing wigs. It was awkward for me as well to take classes with those girls with huge heads: First headscarf, then the wig. There is nothing more ridiculous then people wearing wigs just in order to get in to their universities. If you look at the whole conflict free from political forces surrounding it, you will say that it has to be allowed for the sake of the liberty of women. But if you consider the past actions of the AKP you may approach to their “good intentioned” decision in a more skeptical way. In 2004 AKP tried to prohibit sexual intercourse before marriage by law and they also tried to prohibit alcohol selling in particular districts of the big cities (especially touristic districts in Istanbul) in 2005. They failed twice because of broad public opposition. Now their strategy seems to be changed: Instead of prohibiting non Islamic notions, allowing Islamic aspects to appear in public life is easier and starting from the biggest symbol of the political Islam is not surprising.
The secularists in Turkey represented by the Republican People’s Party in the parliament are helping AKP without even knowing it. They line themselves with the military -the old overseer of the republic and its secular core- and they got crushed by the AKP in 2007 elections. They are still trying to hide behind the legacy of Ataturk who founded the country on the secular principles. Their zealous stand does not work and intimidate people. They tasted it bitterly during the last elections and yet they still talk about Turkey transforming into another Iran.
There are rumors saying that by spring Turkish military will launch a ground operation in Northern Iraq. The Greek part of Cyprus will hold an historic election at the end of this month which may lead to the reunification of the island. Hectic days are waiting the AKP government but they got themselves entangled by a headscarf.