Growing up in the United States, we take for granted the basic rights our government allows its people. We grow up with the right to free thought, to choose our religion and to express our individual beliefs.
When I decided to take up the scarf my sophomore year, I had many concerns. I worried about whether I was strong enough and whether I was ready.
I was not concerned with whether I would be allowed to wear the scarf. I took that for granted. I took for granted that I could express my beliefs and that GW would allow me to continue my education here. And it blows my mind that students in Turkey have to face this very dilemma. In Turkey, you see, women are not allowed to practice their religion and wear a head scarf.
When visiting GW last year, the Turkish ambassador was asked about the outlawing of the head-scarf; why is the government so bent on hindering Islamic expressions in the majority-Muslim country? Why are women not allowed to wear head-scarves?
His answer was simple, he felt it is the government’s duty to prevent “uncivilized” behaviors.
Only in this poor man’s closed mind can the right to practice your religion be considered “uncivilized.” Among all the graphic violations of human rights around the world, we overlook the systematic destruction of a people’s way of life. They changed the language of the country and outlawed most forms of expression, but Islam has managed to survive in Turkey.
And 75 years later, women are denied their right to dress in accordance with Islam. Turkey has progressed much in the last 75 years, but at what cost? I laud the country’s financial and political success along with everyone else, but is success built on the destruction of the spirit of your people truly success? Is a nation truly independent when its people are forced to live their lives by the ideals of another society, forced to live by Eurocentric realities?
Turkey has been ruled for 75 years by Muslims who do not allow their people to practice Islam, is this what we are celebrating?
I do not mean to belittle Turkey or its people in any way. Indeed, I truly admire the millions of Turkish sisters who celebrated the 75th anniversary by holding one of the largest Islamic demonstrations ever. Millions of women, some who choose to wear scarves and some who don’t, gathered and held hands across the Republic of Turkey.
With our ethnocentric view of life, we presume that oppression comes only in one form. We assume that the women of the Taliban, who are forced to wear head-scarves, are the only oppressed Muslim women. We ignore the people on the other side of the coin, women who are socially and legally forced to adopt a lifestyle they may not feel is personally or morally acceptable.
If we believe in freedom of expression and freedom of religion, then we must take a closer look at the situation and recognize this violation for what it is. Last Sunday we joined the brave women of Turkey in spirit, as we gathered in Lafayette Park to take a good look at where Turkey is and what direction it needs to take toward awarding its people “certain inalienable rights.”
-The writer is a senior majoring in biology and communication.