Nothing Goes, Anything Goes

Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, citing the Turkish constitution and the European Court of Human Rights, announced that the recent actions of the Higher Education Board (YÖK) to allow headscarves on campus contradicted both national and international law.

“Recognizing the validity of [wearing] the headscarf at higher education institutions on the basis of religious belief constitutes a violation of the principle of secularism as regulations within public law cannot be based on religious principles.”

He also classified statements made by political parties in favor of lifting the headscarf ban as a “violation of the state’s basic principles of the rule of law, secularism and equality.” I’d just like to point out here that the principle of secularism (safeguarding the state) in this case contradicts women’s rights to an education and freedom of speech. I am not thereby letting AKP off the hook for its own violations of these principles, but pointing out the competing principles at stake.

I find Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s response to Yalçınkaya very disturbing. “A single prosecutor cannot decide, on his own, what is correct. No one has the right to ignore the Parliament’s will.” (my emphasis) (click here for the article) This makes very clear his and AKP’s refusal to accept state institutions as a form of balance of power. Anything goes, if parliament wants it, is a very dangerous concept, especially if the opposition is weak. And especially in a society where political party decisions are still made at the top by a single leader and his cadre. Majoritarianism is not liberal and is not democracy.

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