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Reading About the Headscarf Controversy in Turkey

I was planning to post this as a social networking status update, but it's getting too long, so I thought I'd post it as a blog entry instead.

Today, in addition to my novel edits, I'm reading about the headscarf controversy in Turkey. Some estimates indicate that as many as 65% of women either wear a headscarf or support the wearing of a headscarf, and yet women have been barred from public buildings, from working in the public sector and from attending university while wearing them. The ban on headscarves has been lifted and reinstated at least once in the last five years, and now it seems that university students are permitted to wear headscarves, primarily because they wouldn't have access to education in Turkey otherwise.

It's an interesting debate. From what I've read, Turkey works hard to present its government as secular and views the headscarf as a religious symbol. At the same time, many Turkish people want the right to wear headscarves freely. I would hesitate to comment too deeply about the matter at this stage in my reading (and because I'm not Turkish or Muslim), but I have the impression that there is a liberal vs. conservative divide in the matter. Liberal Turks tend toward the secular view, while conservative Turks tend toward the religious view.

I'm undertaking the reading on behalf of my two Turkish characters who wear headscarves, in an effort to portray them honestly. One of my characters, who will have a much larger role in Book II, is a young, Muslim woman from Turkey who chooses to wear a headscarf and then perhaps chooses to take it off for awhile; I haven't decided yet. The book is set 40-50 years from now, so I'll be integrating her mother's opinion of the headscarf into the narrative (her mother is the other Turkish character). They were tertiary characters in Book I, so I did sufficient research for a tertiary character portrayal, but that level of research won't wash going forward.

If you're interested in what I've read today, here are links to the articles:

The New York Times: New Twists and Turns in Turkey's Head-Scarf Debate
Asia Times Online: Turkey still wrapped in headscarf debate
The Muslim News: Turks Welcome Hijab MPs
The Cultureist: Muslim Women in Turkey are Donning Headscarves with Style Thanks to This Fashion Magazine

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