Now, is the number of women wearing a headscarf rising or not? The conclusion of a survey seems to be a clear “yes”. In short, 69 percent of women cover their heads, against 64 percent in 2003. Of these women, 16 percent wear a ‘turban’ (a ‘religious scarf’ as apposed to a ‘traditional’ one), against 3.5 percent four years ago.
But there’s a whole lot of ‘buts’. There was another survey on the same question which concludes that the number of women wearing a scarf has gone down from 64 percent to 61, the percentage of those wearing a ‘turban’ rising to 6 instead of 16 percent. Both surveys were done in September, but the first has only now been published. The survey results were published by two different newspapers, both belonging to the same media conglomerate, Dogan Media Group. It is now said that the surveys are used to support or oppose government policies. The ‘headscarfissue’ is perfect for manipulation. The governing party is the AK Party, whose leaders in the past were spokesmen for banned Islamic parties. The AK Party says it’s not Islamic, but opponents fear that they will not respect Turkey’s secularism and that they stir up conservative Islamic tendencies in society. Now, if you want to oppose the government, you publish the figures that show an increase in (religious) headscarves – and some say Dogan had reason this week to try to influence politics and public opinion (over some financial transaction between media interests that is too complicated to explain here). On the other hand, if you want to support the government and calm public opinion, you publish the less alarming survey, as a Dogan newspaper did in September after Abdullah Gül (AK Party) was elected president.
Is seems far-fetched, but it’s well known that many Turkish newspapers are not very independent, so I would not be surprised if this is actually what happened. What bothers me though, is that the choices women make are used to manipulate public opinion. What makes me laugh ironically is that the surveys are presented as investigations of the ‘religious attitudes of women’. Such an interesting issue reduced to whether or not you wear a headscarf, and if so, what sort of scarf. The whole exercise says nothing about the attitudes of women and everything about the attitudes of businessmen and politicians.
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