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Turkey has enforced, from the 1990s until now, a ban on women wearing headscarves at university and public buildings. This has prevented many women (who refuse to remove their headscarves) from finishing (or sometimes even starting) their educations, and other participation in society. These are not just a bunch of women who are oppressed by their male relatives into wearing the veil. These include strong women who refuse to back down from the principle of their religious beliefs. Nonetheless, when Turkey lifted the ban, there were massive protests.

http://www.salon.com/mwt/broadsheet/2008/02/11/turkey/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/10/world/europe/10turkey.html?scp=92&sq=women&st=nyt

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/09/world/europe/09benli.html?pagewanted=1&sq=women&st=nyt&scp=96

What is with these people who are protesting? I understand they are protesting because of a misguided desire to help these women, but they are NOT helping these women. They are ruining their lives, and insulting them to boot, by saying that they can't make their own decision to wear the veil.

There are fears that if wearing the veil isn't banned, it will eventually lead to women being forced to wear the veil, though there is no evidence that this has a chance in hell of happening.

So, I want to tell you a little history story. In Iran in the early part of the twentieth century, women didn't have it too bad, comparatively. They went to school, had jobs, had a social life outside the home, went shopping. Some wore the veil, some didn't. Then, in the 1920s, the Iranian government decided to ban the wearing of the veil in public, to "modernize" the country. The ban was strictly enforced. What happened then? Did women stop wearing the veil?

No, they stopped leaving the house.

Eventually the ban was lifted, but the damage was done. After that, it wasn't normal for girls to go to school, for women to have careers, for women to go out in public without being escorted by a male family member. In trying to move forward, they moved way the hell back. And they're still back there. I believe now Iranian law requires girls to wear the veil after the age of nine.

It's bad for a government to require women to wear a veil, but its also bad for it to prevent them from doing it. You make this cycle between oppressing the religiously observant and oppressing the religiously unobservant. Everybody please stop seesawing back and forth between the extremes.

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
purplesquirrel
Feb. 14th, 2008 03:54 am (UTC)
One could also argue that the culture in which women feel the need to wear a veil is structurally sexist, and that those women did not really "choose" to wear it. They were indoctrinated from a young age about a woman's proper role.
grenacia
Feb. 14th, 2008 04:15 am (UTC)
While its true that some women wear the veil because they have been indoctrinated to do so, others wear it as a personal choice. In the third article I cite above, the woman's mother begged her to take off her veil so she could finish her Masters degree, but she couldn't bring herself to do it. It is a religious and cultural mandate, but not always an oppressive one. In it's milder forms, it's just a scarf over a woman's hair. Does anyone say Jewish men are oppressed by an indoctrination to wear yarmulkes?

The bans that have been imposed on wearing the veil have occurred in societies where some women wore the veil and others did not (and some women wore it only part of the time) and where there was controversy over whether it should be worn or not. So any indoctrination to wear the veil was only from small segments of the population, while others opposed the veil.

In any case, whatever a woman's reason for wearing the veil, it does not help her to forbid her to wear it when she's not okay with taking it off. If they're oppressed, give them freedom, not a different kind of oppression. These bans alienate veiled women from society, the last thing they need.
epinephric
Feb. 14th, 2008 05:47 pm (UTC)
Generally one doesn't talk about men being oppressed, period, because men are universally seen as the oppressors. Oppression of men, when spoken of, is usually in terms of oppression of a people, for religious, ethnic, sexuality, or political reasons.

That said, Jewish men are required to cover their heads, as are married Jewish women. Married Jewish women are in fact required to hide all of their hair, from the same modesty concerns as bring about Muslim women's head-coverings, and the whimple in Christian women's clothing of the middle ages. This is an imposition upon their free action, even if gladly accepted and considered spiritually important. So , yes, they are being oppressed by their faith.

That said, the point of the ban isn't the benefit or detriment of women. The point is to enforce the constitutional requirement that Turkey is a secular state. Getting the headscarf permitted is an entering wedge of Islamification of the national government, which the existing secular government fears and opposes.
grenacia
Feb. 14th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
The United States is a secular state, and we don't kick people out of school for wearing garb their religion requires them to wear in public. The headscarf on a Muslim woman doesn't impose the religion on other people (at least not to a larger degree than, say, women holding hands imposes lesbianism on other people) so it shouldn't be the big issue some people are making of it.
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