On October 31, 2013 four female legislators in Turkey entered parliament while wearing headscarves, against a strict secular ban. With this in mind, 10 Turkish women shared what the headscarf means to them.
All interviews were conducted through Facebook, and the formatting has been unchanged.
1. Merve, 20
“I am cool about headscarfs. I don’t like [them] personally but anybody who wants can wear [them]. But they seem boring to me. I just don’t want to wear [them], at least for now. But in my opinion, parliament does not treat everyone fairly. Anyway, I mean I think everybody can wear anything they want but the timing of this new law allowing headscarves is a bit questionable.”
2. Didem, 19
“The headscarf is a special concept for Muslims, also for me. Veiling is [an] important issue in Islam. According to Muslims, the headscarf provides protection from strangers. I mean other than your parents, say foreigners. Therefore, you try to protect yourself [from] adultery and bad idea[s].”
3. Şeyma, 25
“To me the headscarf is an act of worship. In the blessed Koran this is clearly a command of God. This is necessary for a woman to safeguard herself. There are two reasons for the headscarf. Firstly, it is to fulfill the necessities of my faith. Secondly, philosophically, I love this manner of Islamic life.”
4. Büşra, 19
“Turkey is a modern country. Covering is an obligation, but not the first one. For example, If I don’t pray, it doesn’t make sense [to cover]. The aim of wearing the scarf is to hide yourself from eyes of other people. But [some] people who wear the scarf don’t understand this, for example they [wear] make-up or wear [very] tight clothes that show their bodies… I am absolutely respectful to people that wear scarf in real meaning. My mother wears a headscarf and I am glad for it.”
5. Zeynep, 20
“The headscarf is a symbol to Muslim people. If we do it we will win God’s sake… I am a Muslim girl and I am an adult. Therefore I want to cover my hair… People should try to follow God’s commandments and prohibition… I think every human is free. They can wear whatever they want. Nobody [should pass a law] on what to wear. THE IMPORTANT THING IS THE MENTALITIES AND THOUGHTS UNDER THE GARMENTS.”
6. Kübra, 20
“The headscarf is not a political symbol. Our religion places certain guidelines on female and male dress. Our covered friends entering university were forced to uncover. Those who did not uncover were turned away from the universities’ gates. Is this justice? But now our covered friends can enter university. That is, our covered friends are counted now as people. Also, why did I not decide to wear a headscarf? In Turkish, there is a saying - ‘destiny.’”
7. Sümeyye, 25
“Maybe you know that the headscarf was banned for civil servants in Turkey but now it is free and many woman can go their jobs. This is such a revolution for us. The headscarf is a holy order of God in the Koran, so many Muslim women wear headscarves like me. And for me headscarf is my belief i am happy because I listen to God’s order. And for some people wearing the headscarf is a tradition. It isn’t absolutely a belief.”
8. Nur, 19
“There are lots of things in Islam that are forbidden, like shaking hands, for example. But it is your responsibility if you do or do not do these things. It is up to you. If you do them, you can be punished by God. Covering is like this. I would want to do it, because I am a Muslim, and I believe in everything in Islam. If i decide to wear it, though, I will need to change my habits. My clothing, for example, and I find it difficult.”
9. Şükriye, 21
“I am happy about what’s happening in parliament, because now covered women appear to be equal. The headscarf is important for me because I do it for God. While I am wearing my scarf, I feel much more at peace.”
10. Saliha, 20
“The headscarf is a religious requirement for Muslims. You know, nothing is forced but still there are things that will be good for you if you do them. I think that if there is something non-secular, it is being “disrespectful to the freedom of thought and belief.” Nowadays, I can enter with a headscarf the parliament or schools. This makes me feel happy and safe.”
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