Turkish opposition leader criticizes own party’s approach towards headscarf

The leader of Turkey’s main opposition party on Thursday criticized the party’s past practices, denouncing its members’ staunchly secularist approach towards women covering their hairs with a headscarf.

Speaking at an event of the World Afshars Association in the southern province of Adana, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the center-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) also criticized the attitude of Turkish people towards the Syrians who fled to the country due to an eight-year civil war in their land.

“We [the CHP members and followers] have also made mistakes [in the past]. Let’s talk about the facts. We treated the headscarf issue as if it was the most important problem of the Turkish Republic,” Kilicdaroglu said.

The CHP head said society should respect the choice of people who either cover their hairs or not. The state should not prevent a girl from studying because she is wearing a headscarf but should try to solve her educational problems instead.

“Our children should study and question life. They should say why Turkey is that [bad] situation,” the head argued.

Until recently, the CHP, together with its followers who are largely secular-minded middle class,  opposed to religious symbols such as the Islamic headscarf in public.

This approach started changing when the mild-mannered Kilicdaroglu took office as the CHP leader in 2010, according to some analysts.

The leader has sidelined hardcore Kemalists having a rigid version of the ideas of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular republic, promoted the ones closely aligned with European social democratic values.

“He has sought a balance between the new reformist wing and the traditional Kemalists to avoid splitting the party,” Sahin Alpay, a jailed professor of political science who once served as a senior adviser in the CHP, said in 2014.

Under Kilicdaroglu, the party dropped its staunch opposition to women wearing the headscarf in public offices and schools.

“We may have made mistakes in the past. But we are not afraid of facing our history … We are the fastest-changing party in Turkey,” Kilicdaroglu once remarked.

The CHP’s leader also touched on the matter of the Syrian refugees in the country.

“There are 3,5 million Syrians in Turkey. Most of our citizens are angry with them. [But] what are the Syrians’ damage? They fled here due to the war [in Syria]. Who turned the Middle East into a mess? Who has brought them here? We should interrogate this,” added Kilicdaroglu.

Turkey, which hosts an estimated 3.65 million Syrian refugees fears the recent clashes between Turkey-backed rebels and the Russia-supported Syrian government in Idlib will cause a further refugee influx into the country.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not pay off Syrians but offers them support for their daily living needs.

All Syrians seeking protection in Turkey are covered by the temporary protection regime. The regime enshrines a range of rights, services, and assistance for the beneficiaries, including, the right to stay in Turkey until a more permanent solution is found, protection against forcible returns to Syria, access to health, education, social assistance, psychological support and access to the labor market.

The European Court of Justice to hear the case of the headscarf ban in Germany

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