by editor | 18th October 2010 7:57 am
With his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, gathered at its annual retreat, PM Recep Tayyip Erdo?an lists the hot-button issues of the day, starting with the headscarf. Also on the party’s radar are the Kurdish issue, the fight against terrorism and the 2011 elections. ‘We are at a time of working, not talking. Everyone needs to contribute,’ he says Erdo?an defends secularism, stating that it also protects those who wear headscarves, because secularism cannot flourish in an environment without freedom of religion.
It has been on Turkey’s agenda for 30 years, and now legalizing the headscarf for university students has been brought under political scrutiny yet again.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, held its annual party retreat at a thermal spa hotel in K?z?lcahamam over the weekend where the headscarf issue was discussed along with the Kurdish issue, the fight against terrorism and preparations for the 2011 general elections.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an gave instructions at the camp to contact the main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, to solve the headscarf issue.
The ruling AKP had previously proposed constitutional changes in 2008 to allow headscarves at universities, a decision repealed by the Constitutional Court upon a complaint from the CHP.
The process to legalize the headscarf is set to be discussed at the AKP Central Executive Committee meeting Monday, with the favored strategy reportedly being to make constitutional or legal changes with the support of the Peace and Democracy Party, or BDP, and the Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP.
According to reports, the AKP will try to find common ground with the CHP, which supports students wearing headscarves, but will not force the issue with them. If the CHP does not cooperate, the AKP will reportedly prove their “insincerity” and move on.
Erdo?an targets CHP
Erdo?an also criticized CHP leader Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu’s attitude and possible boycott of President Abdullah Gül’s upcoming Oct. 29 reception, which will be open to guests wearing headscarves.
“The CHP cannot understand the change the Republic is going through. I thought you were on the side of freedom?” said the prime minister. “We are at a time of working, not talking. Everyone needs to put forth their contributions, so we can take the necessary steps.”
Erdo?an also made specific criticisms of the CHP, with emphasis on K?l?çdaro?lu.
“The party leader is saying one thing in the morning, and something completely different in the evening,” said Erdo?an, adding that party members have also made conflicting statements. “The former party leader was the same, we hoped for change, but the current leader is the same, too.
“No one has the right to exclude ethnic groups. Those who think they own the public, and use their authority for different purposes have damaged the Republic more than anything else. We came to this day by living with prohibitions.”
Erdo?an went on to defend secularism, stating that it also protected those who wear headscarves, because secularism cannot flourish in an environment without freedom of religion.
“We have been ruling the country for eight years. Who have we interfered with? People can wear what they want and do what they want in my country,” said Erdo?an, adding that everyone should have the same freedoms and rights.
Erdo?an defended recent comments that men and women were actually not equal.
“It baffles me that they say “gender equality” on television. They are right when it comes to rights, but men and women are different by nature,” he said, adding that women who defend gender rights do not support equal rights within their own gender, referring to the headscarf issue.
‘Kurdish initiative not over’
Presentations by Interior Minister Be?ir Atalay, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, and Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Çiçek regarding the Kurdish issue and the fight against terrorism shaped the debates at the AKP camp.
“There is a terrorist organization in this country that kills imams [Muslim religious leaders]. There are political parties supported by this organization. These are the truths of this country. These people are not concerned with peace,” said Erdo?an.
According to information obtained by the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review, Minister Atalay said the Kurdish initiative was set to continue. The minister refused to make any further comments to prevent “making headlines in newspapers the next day.”
Minister Ergin said the initiative needs to be backed by laws but the timing has to be right to solve the issue.
Deputy Prime Minister Çiçek pointed out that over 50 countries support the terrorist organization through illicit money and drug trafficking.
A common complaint among the ministers was jailed terrorist leader Abdullah Öcalan, who still conveys messages to members of the terrorist group from behind bars.
Ergin responded to these complaints, stating that because of ongoing cases Öcalan has the right to meet with his lawyers, and thus cannot be silenced. “Do not exaggerate,” said Ergin. “He is not the only leader of the organization.”
On the last day of the camp, the referendum results and the AKP’s own survey of the reasons behind the “no” votes in Turkey’s coastal areas were discussed, with neighborhood pressure, perceived pressure on the judiciary, unemployment and the government’s Kurdish move to end terrorism featuring in the discussion.
Erdo?an told his deputies spending their weekends in their electoral regions would provide more support for the party.
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