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Leyla Sahin v. Turkey
European Court of Human Rights
App. No. 44774/98 (2005)
Leyla Sahin (plaintiff), a practicing Muslim, was a medical student at Istanbul University (the university) in Turkey. The university instituted a policy banning headscarves, among other things. During this time, there was a contentious political climate in Turkey due to extremism, and Muslim headscarves were seen by some as a political symbol related to Muslim extremism. Based on Sahin’s wearing of a headscarf, Sahin was subsequently prohibited from lectures, exams, and class enrollments and was suspended for a year. Sahin filed an application to set aside the university’s ban on headscarves, alleging, in part, that the ban violated her freedom of religion pursuant to Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the convention), which provides that one’s right to manifest one’s religion may only be limited by law as necessary for public interest. The Istanbul Administrative Court dismissed the application, holding that—consistent with the values of secularism and gender equality embodied within Turkey’s constitution—the university had the authority to regulate students’ dress to maintain order. The Supreme Administrative Court affirmed. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights ultimately accepted Sahin’s request for an appeal.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Wildhaber, C.J.)
Dissent (Tulkens, J.)
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