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Şahin v. Turkey

European Court of Human Rights
44 Eur. H.R. Rep. 99 (2005)


Leyla Şahin (plaintiff), a Turkish national, was a practicing Muslim and believed it was her religious duty to wear an Islamic headscarf. Şahin studied medicine in Turkey at the Bursa University. After Şahin had been studying medicine for five years there, the Vice Chancellor of the university issued a new regulation that all students wearing head coverings, including Islamic headscarves, would be denied admission to classes, lectures, and examinations. This regulation was based on a decision by the Constitutional Court of Turkey that permitting students to wear religious headscarves in educational institutions was inconsistent with principles in the Turkish Constitution requiring education to be administered in a religiously-neutral manner. Şahin was informed of this regulation but continued to wear her headscarf. As a result, she was denied admission to two examinations. Following this, she left Turkey and finished her medical studies in Vienna. Şahin brought suit against the government of Turkey (defendant) on the ground that the decision of its Constitutional Court (and the resulting university regulation) violated her right to manifest her religion, protected by Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Convention). Under this provision, freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs “shall be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of public safety, for the protection of public order, health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”

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