Bosnia: Turkish students escape headscarf ban

Bosnia: Turkish students escape headscarf ban

Dutch authorities are supposedly investigating the Fethullah Gulen movement (here and here) for being a radical and anti-Western.


About 1,000 Turkish students have left home to attend university in Bosnia, attracted by the low cost of living, good food and -- for women -- the right to wear an Islamic headscarf.

On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan officially opened a new campus of the International University of Sarajevo (IUS) on the outskirts of the Bosnian capital.

"I hope that a cultural bridge will be created at this university that will connect the people and secure peace in the Balkans," he said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Erdogan heads an Islamist-rooted government and his wife wears a headscarf. However, Turkey remains a secular state and women are forbidden to wear headscarves at university there.

In Bosnia no such ban exists, and this is among the reasons that young Turks give for making the relatively short journey to study at one of Sarajevo's three international universities, two of which are Turkish-funded.

Food and finances, close to the hearts of students everywhere, are important to Sarajevo's Turkish students.

"There are a lot of mosques and the food is delicious," said Enes Cici from Istanbul, an engineering student at the IUS. "It's very similar to our own culture."


"I came here because of a scarf problem," said architecture student Cahide Nur Cunuk, explaining that she could not enroll at any state or private university in Turkey after graduating from an Islamic theological high school.

"We are happy to be here," added her colleague Vildan Mengi. "Bosnians are Muslims and they are similar to us."

A relatively large proportion of the Turkish students in Sarajevo are women, and most wear headscarves.

They say they cannot enroll at universities in Turkey as they have graduated from theological high schools, the only schools where they could attend classes wearing headscarves.


"If the situation in Turkey changed, we would not come to study here," said one woman in a group of headscarved students sitting in a university tea shop. "Bosnian people are more tolerant than Turkish people," she said.

Vildan Mengi said she had three sisters who would also come to Sarajevo if the scarf problem were not resolved. "My mother came to see me here. She saw I am safe," she said.

The IUS is the largest of the three universities that are building what might become the largest complex of private colleges in the region. The other Turkish-funded college is the International Burch University (IBU).

While the IUS was set up by a group of Turkish businessmen and public figures and their Bosnian counterparts, the IBU's founder is the Istanbul-based Foundation of Journalists and Writers, established among others by Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Followers of Gulen, who has pursued a view that Muslims should not reject modernity but embrace business and the professions, have created a network of private schools and universities across Turkey, the central Asia and the Balkans.


Source: Global Post  (English), h/t MS

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