Turkey’s government has banned all school pupils nationwide from having tattoos or body piercings in a new dress code deemed oppressive and unenforceable, according to the law’s critics.
While tattoos are not widespread among older generations, they have seen a surge in popularity amongst the young and secular sectors of society.
The measure, imposed by the government and published in the Official Gazette on Saturday, also prohibited a number of other things such as dyeing hair, wearing makeup and moustaches and beards for boys, according to local media reports.
Students could be punished through reprimands, suspension or expulsion. If a student fails to get a tattoo removed the punishment is not yet clear.
It shortly follows a previous set of measures which permitted the wearing Muslim headscarves in schools which critics has also denounced as corrosive of Turkey’s secular ideals.
Opponents and critics have said that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent moves constitute steps towards the Islamisation of the country.
Head of the Education Workers Union, Veli Demir said it was unenforceable because tattoos cannot just be taken off like an item of clothing.
“What is going to happen to those (pupils) who already have tattoos? This is not a decision that a reasonable person can take. It is a decision taken without careful thought,” he said as cited by AFP. He said that there will be an appeal to the Council of State over the dress code as it is against the Constitution, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights.
“It is a decision taken by an oppressive mindset. Education is all about contributing to a child’s development and protecting them,” he said.
Another education union head however offered some support for the issue, saying that children who already had tattoos would not be subject to the ban.
“There will be a confusion about when the tattoo was done,” he admitted. “I believe that on this issue the school will take the initiative and help the child.”
Erdogan has expressed distaste for tattoos in general, asking a young footballer, Berk Yildiz, in July to remove his and questioning “why do you harm your body?”