Scarved Deputy May Lose Turkish Citizenship

ANKARA (Reuters)–A Turkish woman member of parliament who was booed out of parliament for wearing an Islamic headscarf could soon be expelled from the assembly and stripped of her citizenship.

Since she arrived to take the oath in parliament early this month wearing her blue scarf–Merve Kavakci has been the focus of a fierce row between secularists and Islamists in Turkey and the subject of a diplomatic tiff with neighboring Iran.

Now Kavakci could be unseated as deputy and have her Turkish citizenship revoked for allegedly being a US citizen.

"According to the law–someone who wants to become a citizen of another country should get Turkey’s permission beforehand," Hurriyet newspaper quoted Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit as saying.

Ankara allows its nationals to be citizens of Turkey and another country–but only with the permission of the state.

"Merve Kavakci did not receive such permission," Ecevit said.

Turkey’s secular establishment sees the headscarf as the flag of political Islam and has imposed a ban on wearing Islamic attire in state offices and universities.

For the first time since the crisis erupted–the powerful military made clear it would not allow any move to ease the ban–state-run Anatolian news agency said.

"In no way at all can anyone continue to work wearing a headscarf in public and state offices," the agency quoted General Chief of Staff Huseyin Kivrikoglu as saying.

He said the ban was imposed by high court rulings that bound parliamentarians as well.

The military–self-appointed guardians of secular order who have staged three coups since 1960–have spearheaded an official crackdown on Islamist activism.

Authorities are set to decide whether to unseat the deputy on grounds that the oath of allegiance she is alleged to have sworn to the United States conflicts with her obligations as a Turkish deputy.

Ecevit forwarded a decree to the presidential palace on Friday. If the president – who has accused Kavakci of being an "agent provocateur"–signs it–she will lose her Turkish citizenship.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry this week distributed US documen’s apparently showing Kavakci had taken US citizenship about a week after her application to stand in last month’s elections was accepted.

Her father is a Moslem cleric in Houston–Texas. Newspapers have been filled with the family’s alleged links to the Palestinian Islamic group Hamas which has launched suicide bomb attacks on Israeli targets.

"Kavakci’s days are numbered," said Radikal newspaper in a front-page story alongside a picture of the deputy–and a caption: "The path to America appears."

Ironically–if she had been allowed to take the oath of allegiance in Turkey’s parliament–Kavakci might have been stripped of her US citizenship too–but that possibility would not now arise–US officials said.

Islamist leader Recai Kutan compared Kavakci to French heroine Joan of Arc. "This looks like the case of Joan of Arc who was crucified and torched," Milliyet quoted him as saying.

Kutan’s Virtue Party is under threat of closure on charges of trying to establish strict Islamic "sharia" law. Kavakci’s headscarfed entry to parliament has been cited as evidence.

The Islamist press has charged that many more deputies–including MPs from Ecevit’s party–are US citizens.

The enforcement of a ban on headscarves in universities last year led to often violent protests nationwide.


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