An unexpected softening in the stance of main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal on the use of headscarves surprised everyone in the country. His motives behind this unexpected move were discussed throughout the week.
“We are setting off hand-in-hand with people who have not come together before. We are setting off with all men and women -- all who cover their heads and who do not,” Baykal said as he put CHP badge on a covered woman’s coat on Sunday. “It is not right to discriminate against people because of what they wear. It is not right to make deductions about them based on their attire.” Baykal’s remarks came during a CHP ceremony held in İstanbul last Sunday in honor of the party’s new members, who included covered women. The sudden change in Baykal’s tough stance -- he’s better known for his opposition to lifting the ban on the headscarf in the public sphere -- was interpreted by many as a tactic to gain the sympathy of conservative voters in the upcoming March elections. Opponents of Baykal’s move, including party deputies Nejla Arat and Nur Serter, claimed Baykal was straying from the party’s traditional staunchly secular line and disturbing the grass roots with his move. But Baykal defended himself during a TV program on Friday, saying that the participation of women in chadors did not mean a change in the party’s policies. He said the CHP already has a number of party members and families who wear headscarves. Baykal precipitated the annulment of a reform package that would have lifted a ban on Muslim headscarves at universities by taking it to the Constitutional Court in February.
You can also follow this story as found in the Hurryet Daily News: "Baykal defends his party on headscarf".
Main opposition leader Deniz Baykal defended his party over its choice to allow it's newest members to be headscarf-wearing women, saying their membership to the party was not a political show and the party’s original line had not changed.(more at the link above)
The membership of the women wearing black chador's and headscarves in the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, has drawn strong reactions from different segments of society and the party’s grassroots. As a party, it strongly opposed the ruling party-sponsored constitutional amendment on ending the headscarf ban in state universities.
Speaking on CNN Türk yesterday, Baykal said the party’s new female members who wear headscarves defended secularism, so the CHP had not deviated from its original line.
"They wanted to join our party, I didn’t offer any proposals to them in this respect. So it was not a political show. Would it be democratic for me not to accept them into the party?" he said.