Turkey headscarf ruling condemned


Ankara : Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party has accused the country’s highest court of violating the constitution by overturning a government move to lift a ban on Muslim headscarves in universities. Hundreds of Turkish women protested against the court ruling on Friday as AK party officials held an emergency meeting on the issue. “The Constitutional Court decision is direct interference in parliament’s legislative power and this is an open violation of the principle of separation of powers,” Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat, the party’s deputy chairman, said following the meeting.

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The ruling by the Constitutional Court on Thursday is the most serious setback for the AK party, which is headed by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s prime minister, since it was elected in 2002 and may threaten its survival. The defeated amendment is set to play a central role in a separate case that seeks to have the AK Party closed down over its alleged anti-secular activities and 71 of its members, including the prime minister and the president, banned from belonging to a political party for five years. “This verdict will affect the closure case negatively,” Mustafa Unal, a columnist for Zaman, a Turkish daily newspaper, said.

About 500 women demonstrated in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir after Friday prayers and hundreds more in colourful headscarves chanted slogans in Istanbul. Thousands of women have not gone to university because of the ban -which has been strictly enforced since 1997 – or have gone abroad to study. The headscarf reform has rekindled a decades-long dispute over the role of Islam in a country of 70 million that is officially secular but predominantly Muslim. Turkey’s secularist establishment, including army generals and judges, suspect the AK Party of harboring an Islamic agenda.