Turkey’s Erdogan Pushes School Ban on Tattoos to ‘Reinforce Values’

Tattoos and body piercings have been banned in schools by the Islamic-rooted Turkish government, while opponents to this ruling say that the ban will be impossible to enforce and is oppressive.

The conservative portion of Turkey’s diverse culture is not in favor of tattoos or piercing, but the secular urban youth, and even school-age teens find both extremely fashionable, according to Al Arabiya News.

The ban includes hair-dyeing, make-up, and both mustaches and beards for boys. The head of the education union said this was an unreasonable ruling and that tattoos could not be removed.  The head of another education union said the tattoo ban was only for children who want to get tattoos after the ban is enforced. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, co-founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is interested in restoring traditional Turkish values, which is interpreted by critics as a bid to “Islamise” the country.

“Don’t be fooled by foreigners. God forbid, it could even give you skin cancer in the future,” Erdogan said. “What are these tattoos? Why do you harm your body?”

Students “are to be present in schools with their faces visible; cannot use scarves, berets, hats, bags or similar materials that carry political symbols, pictures or writings; cannot dye hair, cannot have tattoos or make-up; cannot have piercings; cannot have moustache or beard,” the new regulation published in the Official Gazette read.

A government decree. published September 27, has changed the dress regulations for girls as young as ten years old, allowing them to wear headscarves in school. The regulations added that students in preschool or primary schools cannot wear headscarves, says Hurriyet Daily News.

Following the government decree, the conservative education union Egitim-Bir-Sen demanded that mixed-sex education be abolished and called for freedom in the dress code in a reaction against the compulsory wearing of ties for men.

This week President Erdogan stated that drugs, violence and racism would spread among youth if Turkey abolished compulsory religious course, writes Mustafa Kucuk of the Hurriyet Daily News.  He continued by saying that without religious and moral education young people will “fill in the gap” with other things.

“Sometimes they use drugs, sometimes violence and sometimes organized violence, which turns into terrorism. The existence of a religious culture and classes on morality must not be opened to discussion”, said Erdoğan. He added, “Religious education in schools help in the fight against drug addiction, terrorism, violence, racism, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.”

Erdogan’s remarks came after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled several weeks ago that the Turkish education system was:

“…still inadequately equipped to ensure respect for parents’ convictions” and therefore violated the “right to education.”

A case that stemmed from Alevi complaints about compulsory religious classes is the basis for the ECHR ruling.  Erdogan replied:

“This is an incorrect ruling and there is no similar example in the West,” the president said. “The mandatory physics classes, the mandatory chemistry classes are not sources of debate anywhere around the world, but everybody talks about the religious courses.”