Turkey lifts headscarf ban in army: ‘guardian of Turkey’s secularism’

The Turkish Ministry of Defence has amended the guideline regulations for uniforms in the Turkish Armed Forces lifting the ban on headscarves for female soldiers.

The statement of the ministry read, “With the amendment made in the uniform guidelines female officers, sergeants and military cadets will be allowed to wear an unprinted scarf in the colour of their uniform under their caps, hats and berets without covering their faces.”

The lifting of the ban is a symbolic occasion, as the current constitution stipulates that the Turkish army is supposed to act as the ‘guardian of Turkey’s secularism’.

Turkey has come a long way in terms of the government’s relationship with the country’s armed forces. Only a few years ago Turkish generals were warning the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which grew out of the country’s political Islamic current, that ‘the army will defend secularism’.

Last year’s coup attempt, which Turkish President Erdogan had called ‘a gift from God’, has given the government a perceived legitimacy to launch an unprecedented crackdown against the army, imprisoning, trying and dishonourably discharging thousands of medium to high-ranking officers.

This latest development gives critics of the AKP government further ammunition to hit Turkish President Erdogan with complaints that he is accumulating too much power, an authority that now even has the Turkish army conforming.

Opponents are already claiming that the constitutional reform package – set to be voted on by the public on 16 April – is his attempt at ratifying his all-encompassing grasp on executive power in Turkey.

Erdogan and the AKP, on the other hand, believe that this is the only way that will ‘make Turkey strong again’ in the face of foreign political and economic intervention.