A decision not to give diplomas to headscarf-wearing students of a theology college in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus has led to protests and criticism. Upon outrage over the incident on Thursday, the Turkish Cypriot Education Ministry announced on Friday that it was related to a legal issue and students would be given their diplomas.
Headscarf-wearing students of Hala Sultan Theology College in Nicosia were supposed to receive their diplomas on Thursday at a graduation ceremony but the ministry did not approve their diplomas. Minister Cemal Özyiğit said on Friday that they consulted with the judiciary and decided to approve the diplomas.
The question of religious education is a hot-button issue in the island republic, which pursued a strictly secular approach to the matter for decades.
The college had faced closure last year after a teachers' union filed a lawsuit, claiming it violated laws by offering religious education. The island nation's high court has dismissed the lawsuit.
Before Özyiğit's statement, students and their parents staged a protest outside the ministry. Özlem Khan, head of the school's parent-teacher association, told reporters 50 students their diplomas had not been approved, even though they were allowed to attend the school while wearing headscarves for four years. She said the "crisis" reminded them of the "dark face of Feb. 28 in Turkey," referring to the 1997 coup in Turkey. Before and after the coup, headscarf-wearing students in Turkey faced discrimination and were expelled from their schools as part of a witch hunt by the secular extremist elite ruling the country.