On Sept. 7, a group of conservative women and men brought together by a nongovernmental organization called Ozgur-Der (Freedom Association) held a protest at Sarachane Park in Istanbul. Some of the protesters were as young as 13 and almost all women wore headscarves. Their quest: freedom to wear the headscarf at any school level. Their slogans read: “New Turkey with old and constraining laws,” “Why can't I attend whichever school I prefer?” “Children are ours, not the state’s” and “Right to wear a headscarf now and everywhere.”
The headscarf has been a sore, highly politicized subject in Turkish politics for the last two decades. Hijabis — the women who prefer to wear the headscarf — suffered years of discrimination in higher education and government employment. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) has campaigned intensively since its establishment in 2001 against any ban that would limit Islamic freedoms, and the hijab was at the top of the list. In October 2013, a new law allowed women to wear the headscarf anywhere, except for certain professions with a uniform, such as police officers, soldiers or judges. It was a major accomplishment for hijabis. For the rest of the country, it was assumed that the headscarf would no longer divide the Turkish electorate.