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Turkish parliament preliminarily approves headscarf ban amendment

[JURIST] The Grand National Assembly of Turkey [official website] Wednesday preliminarily approved a proposed amendment to the country's constitution [text] that would ease a current ban on Islamic headscarves [JURIST report] and allow women to wear headscarves in universities. The measure passed 401-99 in a secret ballot. A final vote on the constitutional revision proposed by the ruling Justice and Development Party is expected Saturday, after which it will go to Turkish President Abdullah Gul [official profile] for approval. In an attempt to ease secularist opposition, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish; BBC profile] has said that the amendment, which simply provides that "no one can be deprived of (his or her) right to higher education" would affect only universities [AP report]. Opposition parties have threatened to appeal to the judiciary if the amendment is adopted.

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. The proposed amendment, made in response to recent calls [JURIST report] from Erdogan for the government to lift the ban immediately, would alter the constitution [text] and Higher Education Law No. 2547 [HRW backgrounder] to allow scarves tied at the chin. Chadors, veils and burqas reportedly will still be banned. Supporters of the ban, largely secularists, say the ban on headscarves is necessary to protect the separation of religion and state. AFP has more.

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