Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 May 2020
The chapter investigates how assertive laicism made women one of the battlefields in the conflict between religion and the state. However, to depict them as passive recipients of a conflict does not paint the whole picture. The increase in female schooling during the 1960s induced many conservative families to let their daughters study in religious vocational schools (Imam-Hatip). In 1976, the Imam-Hatip opened classes for female students and de facto accelerated a process of feminization of religious education. Many of these female students enrolled in the faculties of theology at universities, where the head scarf ban was introduced in the 1980s. The relationship between female religious education and the reinforcement of the head scarf ban is here carefully examined. Many of these “pious and educated” Muslim women joined Islamist movements and parties claiming the right of education and work. They experienced the reinstatement of the head scarf ban in universities and its reinforcement after the February 28, 1997, coup. Since the AKP’s rise to power in 2002 and the appointment of Ali Bardakoğlu as the Diyanet president in 2003, new political opportunities fostered the decision to include women within the Diyanet’s state bureaucracy.