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Turkey ends ban on headscarves for women in civil service

Turkey lifted its ban on women wearing traditional Islamic headscarves in public institutions on Tuesday. The official lifting of the ban occurred just eight days after Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish; JURIST news archive] announced the change, which is part of a package of human rights reforms [JURIST report] that Erdogan proposed. The reform package will include allowing Kurdish language education and reducing barriers to entry for Kurdish political parties. In a speech to the Turkish parliament, Erdogan called the move [AFP report] "a step toward normalization." The new rules regarding headscarves will not apply to the military or the judiciary.

Traditional Muslim garments have caused worldwide controversy in recent years. In September a region of Switzerland voted [JURIST report] to ban the wearing of full-face veils. In the same month a UK court ruled [JURIST report] that a Muslim woman who is a defendant in an upcoming trial must remove her full-face veil when presenting evidence. Earlier that week a Quebec official proposed a bill [JURIST report] that would ban religious headwear for public workers. In February the Spanish Supreme Court struck down [JURIST report] a city ban on wearing veils over the face in municipal buildings. Belgium officially banned [JURIST report] burqas in July 2011. France's ban on burqas took effect [JURIST report] in April 2011. Some commentators have suggested that the rationales behind the European burqa bans are weak [JURIST op-ed] and that the true purpose of the bills is societal discomfort.

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