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Headscarf ban lifted in Turkish basketball

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published

The Turkish Basketball Federation (TBF) lifted the regulation preventing female players from wearing the headscarf, or hijab. According to International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules, Article 4.2.2 says players cannot wear "headgear, hair accessories and jewellery." After lifting the ban, Merve Şapçı (above) has become the first female player to get permission to play wearing a headscarf. Şapçı will play for Küçükçekmece, according to Turkish daily, Sabah. Indira Kaljo and Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, two Muslim American women who played college basketball in the U.S. and have been at the forefront of the #fibaALLOWhijab movement, are spearheading the campaign through Change.org to acquire signatures and support to influence FIBA's decision.

While they have been awaiting FIBA's decision, the TBF removed the ban. The decision was made in support of Youth and Sports Minister Akif Çağatay Kılıç, former Deputy Merve Kavakçı and AK Party Istanbul Deputy Ravza Kavakçı. Merve Şapçı, who got a license on Sept. 5 and represents the #fibaALLOWhijab movement in Turkey, said, "I am grateful to our minister Akif Çağatay Kılıç, and Ravza Kavakçı Kan and Merve Kavakçı who provided full sport to our movement.

"Küçükçekmece Mayor Temel Karadeniz also supported us. Kaljo inspired all other women athletes wearing the headscarf."

FIBA, basketball's international governing body, currently has a rule known as Article 4.4.2 that prohibits players from wearing any "headgear" or "hair accessories" on the court, with the exception of headbands that do not exceed 5 centimeters in width. That prohibition includes headgear and accessories worn for religious reasons, such as headscarves worn by Muslim women, yarmulkes worn by Jewish men and turbans worn by Sikh men. That prohibition covers all basketball games, leagues and tournaments sanctioned by FIBA - which includes most professional leagues outside of the United States, the Olympics, the FIBA World Cup, and regional contests like AfroBasket, EuroBasket and the FIBA Americas tournament.

Thanks in large part to public and political pressure resulting from the efforts of Muslim female basketball players who took to social media protesting Article 4.4.2 with the hashtag #fibaALLOWhijab, FIBA finally announced in September 2014 that they would begin a two-year "test phase" during which they would allow the headscarf and other previously banned headgear in some international competitions (such as the 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Youth Olympic Games) and review the results before voting whether or not to officially change Article 4.4.2, according to muslimmatters.org.

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