Sunday, 11 November 2007

Media Myths: Headscarf in Turkish Universities

I'm trying to get through a number of irritating media myths, which are certainly widespread in the British media and therefore probably elsewhere.

Myth: Female students can wear the headscarf in private universities in Turkey but not public universities.

Reality. There is variety of practice in BOTH PRIVATE AND PUBLIC UNIVERSITIES

A Private University where the Headscarf is Strictly Banned
I spent 9 years teaching in what is now Turkey's largest private university (Google me if you want to find out which). Not a place I regret leaving, but that's another story. When I started there in'97 there were students in the headscarf. However, the atmosphere was hardening after the February '97 Postmodern/Indirect Coup against the Islamist Prime MinisterErbakan. The word kept coming from the Higher Education Council to harden the line. First religious women came in secular hats covering their hair, or a wig, to avoid the horror of exposing real hair to non-family members. Eventually security stopped allowing them onto campus.

A Public University where the Headscarf is Allowed.
Bosphorus University (for some reason they insist their international name is Boğaziçi which can't even be spelled out without using the Turkish alphabet, I'm ignoring their stipulation). It's well know that the headscarf is worn by students there. Cumhuriyet (Republic), the flagship of secularist republicanism has plastered pictures of the headscarved women over its pages with great horror. Bosphorus is not a little known institution. It has the highest entry grades of any university in Turkey and is the first choice for most students.

I could give other examples, but enough. Journalists, aren't they wonderful? Do they ever check their claims?

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