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Turkish parliament to consider lifting headscarf ban

[JURIST] A bill to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves [JURIST report] in universities was submitted Tuesday to the Turkish Grand National Assembly [official website, in Turkish] amidst protests by secular groups. Last week, an agreement [JURIST report] between Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party and key opponent Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) [party websites] propelled the bill forward after decades of strict enforcement of the ban. The proposal, made in response to recent calls [JURIST report] from Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [IHT backgrounder] for the government to lift the ban immediately, would alter the constitution [text] and the Higher Education Law No. 2547 [HRW backgrounder] to allow scarves tied at the chin. Chadors, veils and burqas reportedly will still be banned. The alliance between the two parties is expected to produce the requisite two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution in a parliamentary vote scheduled for next week.

Headscarves and other forms of Muslim traditional religious dress [JURIST news archive] are banned from many public places in modern Turkey, a majority Muslim country despite official secularism. Supporters of the ban, largely secularists, say the ban on headscarves is necessary to protect the separation of religion and state. Erdogan has repeatedly called for an end to the ban, saying it effectively denies some Muslim women access to higher education [JURIST report], but Turkish secularists believe that his insistence on ending the ban is a political statement against secular principles. Members of secular parties, including the Republican People's Party and the Democratic Left Party [party websites, in Turkish], have threatened to appeal to the judiciary if parliament approves the bill. AP has more.

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