Court sides with religious woman in overcoat row at courthouse
by Daily Sabah
ISTANBULAug 11, 2015 - 12:00 am GMT+3
by Daily Sabah
Aug 11, 2015 12:00 am
The Constitutional Court, Turkey's highest judicial authority, ordered compensation to be paid to a headscarf-wearing woman who was asked to remove her overcoat during a security check as she was entering a courthouse.
Esma Nur Özbey was stopped by security guards at Bakırköy courthouse in Istanbul two years ago when she objected to removing her overcoat for a search while entering the building. She asked a female security guard to search her instead, leading to a quarrel. She filed a lawsuit claiming she was denied access and was insulted by the guards. In the lawsuit, she claimed her freedom of religion was violated as she was forced to remove the overcoat she wore "as a prerequisite of her faith."
In a verdict released on Monday, the court cited her rights, which are protected by Article 24 of the Constitution, were violated and ordered the payment of TL 3,000 ($1,075) to compensate Özbey. The court said Özbey was right to keep her overcoat on due to her beliefs, and asking her to remove it was "an interference with her freedom of religion and conscience." The ruling stressed that the authorities forcing her to remove the overcoat could not explain how wearing it would be a breach of security or why she was not searched by a female security guard though there were such guards on the premises.
Muslim women, who long suffered from a ban on headscarves in public institutions including courthouses, regained their rights in the recent years after the government lifted the ban two years ago. Last year, a female lawyer won a lawsuit she filed for not being allowed into a trial as she was wearing a headscarf.
Turkey, a secular country with a majority Muslim population, saw a headscarf ban first applied commonly in 1984, but the ban was not enforced uniformly until 1997, the year that Turkey's "post-modern coup" occurred. The army and bureaucrats, representing the country's secular elite, had started a campaign against headscarf-wearing women and effectively enforced the ban.