Sumeyye Arslan was in her penultimate year of medical school when Turkey's military led a crackdown on "Islamic reactionaries" in 1998.
Like roughly two thirds of Turkish women, Arslan wore a headscarf. She was expelled from medical school for it. After years of hardship, including a rift with her father, an imam, who wanted her to uncover her head so she could complete her studies, she was finally able to obtain a medical degree from an Austrian university.
Back in Turkey, she thought things would get better at the workplace, but they didn't. Her headscarf meant she couldn't find employment in state hospitals or clinics. Set up and run by men professing to share her attachment to an Islamic '”Just Order,”' private hospitals offered her a minimum wage for 50-hour weeks.
A decade later, bitterer and wiser, Arslan has come to the conclusion that the real discrimination against headscarf-wearing women is at work. "At university, we assumed the state had a monopoly on discrimination," she said. "In the workplace, everybody discriminates against covered women, secular, religious, it makes no difference."
To read the full story
Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the Middle East.