Professor jailed for not allowing headscarf

Published November 28, 2014
The image shows a woman in a headscarf. — AFP/File
The image shows a woman in a headscarf. — AFP/File

ISTANBUL: A prominent Turkish professor on Thursday began a jail sentence after being convicted of preventing a female student wearing a Muslim headscarf from entering the university where he worked, his lawyer said.

Rennan Pekunlu, a former professor of astrophysics at Ege University, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2012 for violating a headscarf-wearing student’s “constitutional right to education” by barring her from entering the faculty.

Pekunlu began his sentence in a prison in the western city of Izmir, becoming the first individual in Turkey to be jailed for such an offence, his lawyer Murat Fatih Ulku said.

Before heading to prison, the 64-year-old professor gave a public lecture on the “universe and evolution” to an audience including his former students, colleagues as well as members of several labour unions.

“This is not our last lecture. We have a lot more to do. This is not the end,” Pekunlu said before bursting into tears, as gasps and sobbing erupted inside the packed hall.

“Professor Rennan is not alone,” the crowd chanted, according to the website of Hurriyet newspaper.

“AKP dictatorship is doomed to collapse,” they shouted, referring to the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party.

Pekunlu denies the charges, saying he did not prevent any student from entering the university or attending his classes, insisting that he would just “report them to university authorities”, to which he is entitled under Turkish laws.

“I would have done the same in similar circumstances. I have done my duty”, he told CNN-Turk television by phone.

His lawyer said they took the decision to the European Court of Human Rights. “It’s an unfortunate decision in a secular, constitutional state,” Ulku said.

Pekunlu is on trial in two other cases on the same charges and if found guilty he could face up to 12 years in prison.

He also received a suspended sentence for beating a veiled student at his university — charges he insists were fabricated.

The Higher Education Board (YOK) lifted a ban on the wearing of the Muslim headscarf on university campuses in 2010.

However, some universities maintained the notorious ban, contesting the legality of the decree.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2014



Failure of accountability
Updated 26 Jan, 2022

Failure of accountability

THE resignation of PTI government’s accountability czar Barrister Shahzad Akbar is a blow to the party’s central...
26 Jan, 2022

New freight service

THE launch of a new railway freight service connecting the Karachi port with the industrial and commercial centres ...
26 Jan, 2022

Flying curbs

THE unexpected decision of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to continue its ban on PIA operations to EU...
Under pressure
Updated 25 Jan, 2022

Under pressure

It is fairly obvious that PM is cognisant of the trouble that his government is in from a political and economic perspective.
25 Jan, 2022

Ukraine tensions

TENSIONS between Nato and Russia over Ukraine have reached a critical pass, and there are genuine fears of a fresh...
25 Jan, 2022

Defeating polio

WITH Pakistan in the decisive stage of the battle against polio, every vaccination campaign is of significance as it...