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Hijab Allowed in Turkish Army for the 1st Time in the Republic’s History | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Two young women in headscarves attending a pro-government demonstration outside the city hall in Istanbul. Photo: AFP

Ankara – For the first time since the establishment of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the ministry of defense announced on Wednesday its decision to lift the ban on female officers wearing the veil.

The new measure follows a series of similar steps taken in police, security and judicial institutions to allow women to wear the hijab in civilian posts and public institutions.

Wednesday’s decision stipulates that women may wear the headscarf underneath their cap or beret as long as it is the same color as their uniform and does not cover their faces.

The move applies to female officers working in the general staff and command headquarters and branches, the state-run Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday.

The reform will come into force once it is published in the official gazette.

Since 2002, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gradually opened the public sphere to veiled women.

Turkey lifted a ban on the wearing of the headscarf on university campuses in 2010. It allowed female students to wear it in state institutions from 2013 and in high school in 2014.

In August 2016, the Turkish interior ministry issued a decision allowing female members of the gendarmerie and coast guard forces to cover their heads.

As for the military sector, the stance on wearing the hijab slightly softened in 2015, when an army court ruled that veiled relatives of soldiers could enter military facilities.

The ruling Justice and Development party (AKP), co-founded by Erdogan, has long pressed for the removal of restrictions on women wearing the headscarf.

Headscarves have been seen in parliament since October 2013, when four female AKP MPs wore them in a session.

At the time of the controversy over lifting the ban in the police forces, pro-government media outlets pointed out that several western states had already granted female officers permission to wear the hijab.