‘Empire strikes back’: Turkish seculars oppose ‘Ottoman dress’ for hostesses

Turkey’s proposed new more modest dress code for its flight attendants has been criticized by the country’s seculars with some Twitter users deriding the new suggested uniforms as reminiscent of the costumes worn in the Ottoman era, a newspaper reported Monday.

According to The New York Times on Monday, the proposed new look include long dresses and skirts below the knee, and Ottoman-style fez caps.

Critics, who likened the suggested uniforms as to those worn in the “Magnificent Century,” a popular Turkish soap opera about the decadent reign of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, heightened their disapproval amid media reports of Turkish Airlines banning alcohol on their flights.

However, earlier this month the national carrier denied the reports and said its policy to serve alcohol on both its domestic and international flights continues to be uninterrupted.

Secular Turks, who fear over-domination by the ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are wary that the party’s decade-long run in power will change the country’s traditional secular culture.

They also doubt that the national airline, nearly 50-percent-owned by the government, is simply trying to please Erdogan.

“Turkish Airlines is leaning toward a more conservative line,” Serdar Tasci, a sociologist who also works as a consultant to the main secular political party, the Republican People’s Party, or C.H.P., told the paper. “On the one hand it is trying to be a global brand, and on the other it is allying with the neoconservative policies of the political power.”

In a country where women are not allowed to wear the head scarves, it saw a breakthrough change when Erdogan’s party lifted ban on female students wearing Islamic head cover in schools providing religious education late 2012 in addition to restricting the serving of alcohol in certain places.

“It is a reaction [seculars not wanting the new dress code] against imposing a certain lifestyle to all institutions in Turkey,” Ayse Saktanber, a sociologist at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, told the paper. “Turkey is a pragmatic society which doesn’t like to fall behind the world. These new costumes came with the alcohol ban on planes.”

“Even my students with head scarves find these ridiculous,” she added.

Erdogan’s party has worked to tame the influence of the military - the self-appointed guardians of secularism since the modern republic was founded in 1923 - over the past decade, but he denies an Islamist agenda.

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Last Update: Monday, 25 February 2013 KSA 16:49 - GMT 13:49
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