Turkey’s first headscarved military pilot is on her way

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Turkey's first headscarf-wearing pilot Merve Gürbüz

Twenty-three-year-old Merve Gürbüz is the first headscarved woman to be admitted to the training program of the Air Forces Academy in Turkey.

The pro-government Yeni Şafak daily reported the story on Monday and announced the nation’s “first headscarved military pilot.”

After passing a thorough security clearance, Gürbüz is now undergoing the academy’s “adaptation training.” She is expected to be sworn in on Feb. 23 and continue her training for one-and-a-half more years at Air Forces headquarters.

The Turkish military has a strong no-headscarf policy due to its strict understanding of secularism. Not only were visibly pious officers expelled, but their families were also banned from participating in events and utilizing amenities if they were wearing a headscarf.

Following a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the government purged nearly one-third of the military for alleged connections to the Gülen movement, a grassroots religious movement that advocates inter-faith dialogue and education.

Meanwhile, amid criticism that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is pushing the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) away from NATO, Defense Minister Fikri Işık has said 30,000 new people will be enlisted in the TSK, the Star daily reported on Sunday.

“This week 174 Air Forces Academy students started their education. We are continuing to conduct interviews. A total of 30,000 new people will be part of the TSK,” said Işık during a party meeting in Kocaeli on Saturday.

Although the Turkish military stated on July 27 that 8,651 military members including cadets and conscripts took part in a July 15 coup attempt, Minister Işık told the state-run Anadolu news agency on Dec. 11 that the government had dismissed a total of 22,085 military personnel including high-ranking generals over alleged links with the Gülen movement.

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