ANKARA: Turkish army chiefs boycotted an official ceremony at the presidential palace because the president’s wife wore an Islamic headscarf.
The army’s top brass were conspicuous by their absence at a banquet thrown by President Abbdullah Gul to commemorate the creation of the modern, secular Turkey in 1923.
The military organised a separate reception at the same time to give the generals an excuse not to accept the president’s invitation, the reports said. The secularist main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also declined Gul’s invitation.
Turkey’s First Lady has worn the hijab, which covers the head and neck, since adolescence. The boycott was criticised by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whose wife also wears the headscarf.
The army’s generals, who see themselves as custodians of the Turkish republic, regard the headscarf as a threat to the state’s secular traditions and are against any relaxation of the ban on wearing them in schools and government buildings.
Hayrunnisa Gul and Emine Erdogan, as well as a number of other wives of leaders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), all wear headscarves.
Erdogan, who has led the conservative Islamist government since 2002, reproached the generals, saying “the armed forces should have been present” at the presidential palace.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 31st, 2010.
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