Closure of the pro-Islamic AKP would be a tremendous setback for Turkish liberals, who have supported the party because of its active commitment to economic reform and accession and its plans to lift repressive laws. It would also undermine
While the motivations behind the indictment may be transparently political, the barrage of accusations is grave. The AKP”s home-grown critics and
The charges, however, are more fantasy than fact.
Critics cite the AKP”s move in February to lift the ban on female university students wearing headscarves as proof that Turkish secularism is endangered. They also note that the tax on alcohol has increased since the AKP came to power in November 2002 and that last year alcohol consumption fell 2.5 percent. Additionally, they cite state statistics showing that the percentage of women in the workforce has dropped. Turkish newspapers are rumored to be lengthening skirt and sleeve lengths before they publish advertisements showing women. More women are said to be covering their hair, in accordance with conservative Islamic principles.
But appearances can be deceptive. If alcohol consumption was a measure of liberty,
The decline in female workforce participation is real. It should be welcomed. The reason is not Islamicization but education: Girls are staying in school longer, thus delaying their entry into the labor force. This process has been underway for at least two decades, meaning it began years before the AKP was voted into office in 2002. In addition, the continued urbanization of Turkey means that women are less likely to work in the fields — unpaid labor that nevertheless counted them as part of the workforce — and more likely to be studying. Female literacy in
As for women covering their hair, the accusation that this is more prevalent is simply wrong. The percentage of women who say they do not cover their hair when going outside rose from 27.3 percent in 1999 to 36.5 percent in 2006. What has increased, according to a 2006 national survey by the Turkish social studies research group TESEV, is the perception that more women are wearing the veil. Sixty-four percent of those polled said that the number of women who cover their hair has grown over the past decade. Moreover, the ban on headscarves is not intrinsic to
The true test of a party”s democratic credentials is its willingness to submit to free and fair elections. Prime Minister Erdogan did so twice last year, gaining 47 percent of the vote on a record turnout in the July 2007 parliamentary polls. By contrast, the AKP”s secular opponents, whose dismal record cost them the past two elections, are reduced to cheering the judicial coup on from the sidelines.
The critics are wrong: It is secularism that is failing the test of democracy in