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Turkey: Constitutional Court puts its foot down on headscarf ban

The Turkish Constitutional Court – the highest judicial authority in Turkey – sparked new controversies after releasing, on 23 October, the reasoning behind its decision to annul the Parliament’s headscarf amendments in early June (for background information please see the June edition of ACA Newsletter – Education Europe). According to the release, nine of the eleven judges interpreted the amendments lifting the headscarf ban at universities as a violation of the principles of secularism, which according to the fourth article of the Constitution, cannot be amended. According to the court, the headscarf was perceived as an expression or a display of Islamic sympathies in higher education institutions, and should therefore be banned.

The opinion generated harsh debate, some of the parties questioning the competence of the court to rule on the matter, also criticising the decision as being of a political and not judicial nature, while others defended the reasoning, declaring the headscarf issue legally closed. 

The Court’s explanation also seems to bluntly ignore extended international criticism, which accused the supporters of the ban of denying women’s rights to education. What is for certain is that we haven’t heard the end of the headscarf ban debate yet: the issue will undoubtedly fuel further tensions.

Constitutional Court of Turkey