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Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, proclaimed the republic in 1923 and wanted to completely westernize his country. Thus the religious turban for men and the veil for women were prohibited. These clothing regulations are still valid today for female students and civil servants. But Ataturk’s dogma of the unveiled standardized Turkish woman is losing its hold in the Metropolis of Istanbul with its 14 million inhabitants. The Turkish patterns have become much more varied: female Islamistic activists not only demonstrate – they conduct social facilities, work in their own hospitals, business groups, media – and the call for more democracy and religious freedom is getting louder and louder.

 

Using portraits of a variety of women, the current discussion about headscarves in Turkey is shown from many standpoints:

- Betul Mardin, the grande dame of public relations, was not allowed to study as a girl and gives a witty account of her difficult path towards becoming a business woman.

- Halime is a social worker and tries to alleviate the hardships of immigrants in the Gecokondus, the huts built overnight on the outskirts of Istanbul.

- Nilufer Gole, sociology professor and author of the book “Republic and Veils”, thinks the presence of women in public life is important, with or without a head covering.

- Ayse Borhurler, editor for the religiously oriented Channel 7, travels all over the country with her program and reports on the lives and problems among the people.

- Ariana Ferentinou presents a Turkish-Greek music program in Acik Radio; it enjoys great popularity and is characteristic of the approach both countries are making towards each other.

The headscarf movement is also a part of the new civil society which is forming in Turkey, part of an opening towards Europe, an opening in which also comes from the people.

In English, German and Turkish, with English Subtitles.

My Head is Mine: Women in Istanbul (2001)