TurkeyErdogan proposes referendum on veiling
The veiling debate has recently erupted in Turkey. On Saturday, the President floated the idea of seeking his opinion on the religious symbol.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed a referendum on constitutional change to ensure the right to wear the veil in public office, schools and universities during a televised address on Saturday.
“If you dare, come on, let’s put this to a vote (…) and let the nation decide,” began the Turkish head of state, addressing Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition party that originally proposed a law. The right to wear the veil should be guaranteed.
In response, Turkish President Kemal Kilicdaroglu rejected the idea of a referendum on Saturday evening, accusing him of following Viktor Orban, the Hungarian nationalist leader who has become a symbol of the hard right. “Do you want to follow Orban, Erdogan? (…) Where do you get the vote? If you don’t run, this question will be solved. Men can no longer have an opinion on women’s clothes. Do you have that courage?” he tweeted.
The veiling debate has recently erupted in Turkey ahead of the 2023 presidential and legislative elections. With a Muslim majority but secularism enshrined in its constitution, Turkey has long been a veiled country. Banned from civil service, schools and universities. But restrictions on wearing the veil were lifted in 2013 by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The Turkish president often casts himself as a defender of Muslims against the secular “elite,” implying that without him, “gains” such as the lifting of veil restrictions would be at risk. While wearing the veil sparked heated debates in the 1990s, no political movement has proposed its ban in Turkey today.
“We’ve made mistakes in the past about the veil… it’s time to let go of this question,” CHP (Republican People’s Party, Social Democrat) leader Kemal Kilikdaroglu said in early October, proposing a law to guarantee the right. Wear a veil.
“A strong family is a strong nation”
Created by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the CHP is known as a staunch defender of secularism. According to observers, Kemal Kilicdaroglu wanted to show conservative voters – who traditionally vote for the AKP, the party of Recep Tayyip Erdogan – that they have nothing to fear in the event of a change of power.
Faced with this attempt to win back conservative votes, Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by calling for constitutional change on the matter in early October. In a speech the Turkish president now proposes to put to a vote, he announced, without elaborating, that the anti-LGBT provision would also be aimed at “strengthening the protection of the family.”
“A strong family means a strong nation. (…) Can there be LGBT people in a strong family? No,” he hammered. “As representatives of the people’s will, we will protect our country from the onslaught of wrong and evil currents,” he added.
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