School uniforms out, headscarves OK in religious classes

Uniforms have been required for grade-school students in Turkey for many years, while the wearing of headscarves was not allowed.

By Alakbar Raufoglu for SES Türkiye -- 04/12/12

* denotes required field.

  • Button

Starting next year, grade-schoolers will no longer be required to wear monotype uniforms, a nationwide requirement since early in the republic, according to the new regulations of the country's Education Ministry.

  • Children walk home from school in Istanbul. The government is relaxing the dress code for grade-school students, including the requirement for uniforms and rules against the wearing of headscarves. [AFP]

    Children walk home from school in Istanbul. The government is relaxing the dress code for grade-school students, including the requirement for uniforms and rules against the wearing of headscarves. [AFP]

The regulation also lifted the headscarf ban for religious imam-hatip schools and other schools during optional courses on the Quran.

Students will have the option of wearing uniforms. The amendments to the dress code were published in the Official Gazette on November 27th.

Pupils will be allowed to wear casual clothing meeting specific requirements. Transparent, too-tight and sleeveless clothing is forbidden by the new code, as well as any clothes or accessories bearing emblems of political symbols, shapes or writing.

"These are all steps taken as a result of a demand," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

Mehmet Emin Zararsız, Education Ministry undersecretary, said the new regulations have "absolutely no political reasons" and were designed to bring international practices to Turkey.

"You can't find any developed country that bans the parents from dressing their child the way they want," Zararsiz said. "Now, we do the same in Turkey."

The move sparked questions among secularists, however.

"The crucial question is does the AKP work to deepen democracy with this decree, or does it aim at widening freedoms only for its own constituency by providing ticket for veil in schools?" said Onder Kucukural, an Istanbul-based analyst and doctoral candidate in the political science programme at Sabanci University. "Actually, currently we are very much confused about the aim of the decree," Kucukural told SES Türkiye.

Gunes Murat Tezcur, author of the book Muslim Reformers in Iran and Turkey: The Paradox of Moderation, said that of the priorities for the AKP government is "to gradually abolish the state practices that limit public display of practices and symbols associated with Sunni Islam."

The recent overhaul of the education system from 5+3 to 4+4+4 is primarily motivated to increase the importance and number of religious schools (imam-hatip) in public education, experts said.

"Similarly, the government abolished the mandatory school uniforms to make it possible for girls who attend imam-hatips to wear [a] headscarf," Tezcur told SES Türkiye. "In practice, many girls have attended imam-hatips with [a] headscarf in any case."

Citing local surveys, the analyst added, there is widespread support for government's attempts to end the limitations on public display of Sunni Islam practices and symbols.

"In fact, according to the latest survey by KONDA/TESEV, a majority supports the idea that public officials [such as teachers] can wear a headscarf at work," Tezcur said.

Halil Karaveli, an Istanbul-based senior fellow with the Turkey Initiative at Johns Hopkins University's Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, said there is "nothing dramatic about these changes; headscarves when attending religion courses have always been allowed."

"Yet you might say that the AKP government is signaling that the militaristic era, when the whole of society was supposed to be regimented, fitted into one, all-size Kemalist uniform, starting from the schools, is over," he told SES Türkiye. "In that sense this is a liberal change."

However, he said there was speculation the uniform rule change is the first step in a process by the government to open up schools for religious attire more generally in the schools.

"But, on the other hand, that is something that only secularists who are militant and narrow minded could object to," Karaveli said.


Do you like this article?



Subscribe to our newsletter and receive our latest published articles in your inbox.

We welcome your comments on SES Türkiye's articles

It is our hope that you will use this forum to interact with other readers across Southeast Europe. In order to keep this experience interesting, we ask you to follow the rules outlined in the comments policy. By submitting comments, you are consenting to these rules. While SES Türkiye encourages discussion on all subjects, including sensitive ones, the comments posted are solely the views of those submitting them. SES Türkiye does not necessarily endorse or agree with the ideas, views, or opinions voiced in these comments. SES Türkiye welcomes constructive discussion but discourages the use of copy-pasted materials, unaccompanied links and one-line slogans. This is a moderated forum. Comments deemed abusive, offensive, or those containing profanity may not be published.
SES Türkiye's Comments Policy
  • Anonymous over 2 years

    We are too late to do that. It should have been long before we’ve come to this point. If it had been done in due time, now people would have been judging each other by their intelligence, not by their appearance and they wouldn’t have turned into parasites with superiority complex. I don’t know about the others, but this is good for me. I would put on my sweatpants and go to school like that. I cannot stress myself at all. I hope consequently people can understand that the important thing is not the brands or the dresses they wear, but the human inside of them.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    I always support AKP because they take their step consciously. The ones, who understand people’s problems, will remain in power in the future. May Allah help them.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    I think it is very important to continue having school uniforms to keep students under control. Moreover, the difference between the rich and the poor would become more obvious without uniforms. Anyone, who wants to wear headscarf, should be able to do so. Don’t be afraid of the headscarf. The important thing is the intelligence, character and success of the person who is wearing it.

Name: Anonymous - Have your comments posted immediately!

Formatting Help Button