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    Baykal defends his party on headscarf

    Hurriyet Daily News
    22 Kasım 2008 - 00:00Son Güncelleme : 21 Kasım 2008 - 17:52

    ANKARA - Main opposition leader Deniz Baykal defended his party over its choice to allow it's newest members to be headscarf-wearing women, saying their membership to the party was not a political show and the party’s original line had not changed.

    The membership of the women wearing black chador's and headscarves in the Republican People’s Party, or CHP, has drawn strong reactions from different segments of society and the party’s grassroots. As a party, it strongly opposed the ruling party-sponsored constitutional amendment on ending the headscarf ban in state universities.

    Speaking on CNN Türk yesterday, Baykal said the party’s new female members who wear headscarves defended secularism, so the CHP had not deviated from its original line.

    "They wanted to join our party, I didn’t offer any proposals to them in this respect. So it was not a political show. Would it be democratic for me not to accept them into the party?" he said.

    "There are some who once voted for the Islamist ruling party but now want to be involved in the CHP. They should be given an equal opportunity and integrated in society. Our party is open for all who are faithful to the secular and democratic principles of the Turkish Republic," he said.

    Noting that Turkey was actually questioning its stance toward politics and headscarf relations over the CHP, Baykal said the party was ready to embrace those who are reconciled with modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his principles, as well as those who don’t wear headscarves as a political symbol.

    "Those new female members who wear headscarves had no problem with secularism. What we did by accepting them to the party was not a new approach but an [ethical] attitude. I never called it a political move," said Baykal.

    Baykal also said a significant portion of society had begun to leave the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, and that it was a meaningful development.

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