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Bizarre Turkish Laws – past and present

5th January 2015

While most laws in Turkey are created to protect the interests of society, there are some that seem baffling, irrational or downright sexist. 

From ancient laws banning coffee to modern day regulations defining the clothes a woman may wear. Here is a list of bizarre Turkish laws past and present.

The Ottoman Empire

In the 15th century it was made legal in Turkey for a woman to file for a divorce if her husband did not supply her with her daily cup of coffee.

Laws later changed and during the 16th and 17th centuries it was made illegal to drink coffee or to frequent coffeehouses.

If caught the punishment was a severe beating or even death.

Sultan Murat III banned coffee in Ottoman Turkey; this was due to coffeehouses becoming regular meeting places for troublesome rebellious political activists.

Although thankfully successive sultans later lifted the ban.

In the 16th century Sultan Murad IV passed a law prohibiting drinking and smoking throughout the empire.  Anyone who was caught breaking this law was executed. However despite passing this law Murad continued to abuse both habits.

Did you know?- Stealing olives before they are ripe can result in a jail sentence of up to 2 years.

- It is illegal for men over the age of 80 to become a pilot. – This seems to be a sensible law.

Men & Women- Up until 2002 a married Turkish Women was not legally equal to her husband.

    For many years, Turkish men were legally recognized as the head of the family. This meant that not only did they have full control over their spouse, but they also had the right to solely decide where they would live.

    It was forbidden by law for a married Turkish women to take a job without first seeking her husbands permission. 

    In the event of a divorce, married women were not entitled to an equal share of the joint assets. 

(Fact: the percentage of women lawyers, doctors and stockbrokers in Turkey is higher than in many Western nations)

Naming a baby- If a man and women cannot agree on the name of their child, it is the man who can decide the child’s name in Turkey.

- A Turkish child may not leave Turkey without first the father’s permission to do so.

- A foreign child may not live in Turkey without first the father’s permission to do so.

"Think before you speak"...- Turkey has a law against ‘insult crimes’ you can go to prison for insulting a person in Turkey. Swear words or racial insults can land you in hot water.

And definitely do not insult the state- It is against the law in Turkey to disrespect the name or image of 'Mustafa Kemal Ataturk' or to insult the government or flag or security forces.

Driving- It is illegal to NOT have a reflective early warning device, a fire extinguisher, and a first aid kit in your vehicle while driving in Turkey.

- It is illegal to travel around Turkey without identification.

Dress Code- Until 2013 - It Was illegal for women in Turkey’s Parliament to Wear Trousers.

- In 2011, a deputy from the (CHP) Safak Pavey, drew attentions to the trouser ban as she had asked to be permitted to wear trousers in the Turkish Parliament because she had a prosthetic leg.  However, parliament rejected her request because of regulations what specified that women should wear suits with skirts. 

After calls to relax the trouser ban Parliament later approved the measure and lifted the ban on trousers for women MPs in parliament.

Headscarf Ban- For many decades Muslim women in Turkey were prohibited from wearing the hijab (headscarf covering head and hair) in schools, universities and women working in the public sector, including teachers, lawyers and members of parliament. The ban was enforced throughout Turkey. 

These principles were based on a strict separation between the state and religion.

It was in 2013, that Turkey's former Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan lifted the headscarf ban, allowing devout female Muslims to wear the hijab in public and official institutions and public spaces including schools and universities.

- In 1925 the ‘hat law’ was introduced, banning Turkish men from wearing fezzes or turbans.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk banned the traditional fez as part of his modernizing reforms.

Drinks- The sale of alcohol between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m is banned throughout Turkey.

- The law in Turkey states that Retailers are forbidden to sell alcoholic beverages between 10 pm and 6 am. Also you cannot buy Alcohol within 100 meters (yards) of mosques and schools as it is prohibited.

- Images of alcoholic drinks are blurred on TV adverts 



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