Judges Shot by Islamist Over Headscarf Ban in Turkey

May 18, 2006

Source: The New York Times


On May 18, 2006 The New York Times reported, "A gunman stormed into a courthouse meeting room in Ankara on Wednesday and shot five judges, apparently in anger at a ruling enforcing a strict ban on the wearing of Islamic head scarves.

One judge later died, and top officials, including the prime minister, who himself had criticized the court's ruling, rushed to denounce the attack as a violation of Turkey's secular and democratic traditions.

The gunman, who was captured, is Alparslan Arslan, a lawyer.

He is not known to have previously displayed strong Islamist views, but during the siege, 'he presented himself as the soldier of God,' said Tansel Colasan, acting chief judge of the highest administrative court, the Council of State, in whose courthouse the shooting took place.

'He reportedly said he was there to punish the court members for their verdicts on the head scarf cases,' Judge Colasan told reporters outside the courthouse in Ankara, the capital.

The shooting underlines the frictions Turkey faces as it navigates between those pressing for a greater role for Islam and those who want to protect secular rule. In recent years the government has worked to improve its democratic procedures in order to join the European Union."