Turkish legislator creates tension with wardrobe

During oath she will wear Islamic head scarf


ISTANBUL, Turkey -- When Turkey's newly elected Parliament convenes for the first time today, it may face its first crisis even before members take their oaths of office.

A newly elected deputy from the Islamic-oriented Virtue Party, Merve Kavakci, says she will insist on taking her oath while wearing her head scarf.

That could lead to a confrontation with the strongly secular political establishment.

The head scarf has become an inflammatory symbol in Turkey. Powerful military and civilian leaders consider it a sign of religious militancy and anti-secular beliefs. But some women say that their scarves are simply an expression of fidelity to Islam.

Turkish women are free to wear their head scarves in public but are not allowed to do so in courtrooms, at public universities or at official gatherings.

Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit has sent emissaries to leaders of the Virtue Party in an effort to head off a confrontation today.

"I do not want there to be any tension when Parliament opens," Ecevit said.

"She can cover her head as she wishes in her private life but when she is in the parliamentary chamber or in committee rooms, we expect her to conform to established rules and traditions."

Pub Date: 5/02/99

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