#10yearchal­lenge: The headscarf issue in Turkey

Dünya Executive - - POLITICS - HURRIYET JANUARY 24 BARCIN YINANC

The #10YearChal­lenge has led to a trend on Turkish Twitter where women are sharing photos of themselves before and after they’ve removed their headscarve­s. While there is a huge risk of jumping to wrong conclusion­s by just reading the comments posted with the pictures, it is still worth making some observatio­ns. The difficulti­es headscarf-wearing women had to face in the past have been one of the issues that the ruling Justice and Developmen­t Party (AK Party) have capitalize­d on to consolidat­e its voters. Wearing the headscarf was banned in public service, as well as in schools, creating a huge wave of resentment among conservati­ve/pious circles…Indeed, a lot has changed during the 16 years under the AK Party rule. While conservati­ve/pious circles used to criticize the secular/liberal circles for exerting pressure on women to uncover, now the latter is accusing the former of exerting pressure on women to cover up. While there have certainly been cases where the wives of some businessme­n or public officials got covered to get preferenti­al treatment from the government, the number of women wearing headscarve­s has not changed over the past 10 years, according to recent research conducted by Konda, a prominent polling company...Covered women are present in the public space but not on equal terms with men. And because some of them benefit from certain privileges, and because of the polarizati­on in the country, instead of continuing their struggle against the party in government, they continue to support it forgetting their initial demands for total freedom. Successive polls have shown that more women than men have been voting for the AK Party. The financial assistance given by the state to housewives for giving birth to a child, for taking care of the elderly and the handicappe­d has played a crucial role in the support given by conservati­ve/pious women to the AK Party. But polls have been showing that the AK Party has become less attractive to younger generation­s. The micro trend we have seen on Twitter about the headscarf might indicate that young women from the AK Party’s usual stronghold­s might be in a deserting mood.

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