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Secular Turkey lifts scarf ban in universities

Tue., Jan. 29, 2008, midnight

ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey’s ruling party agreed with an opposition party Monday to lift a decades-old ban on Islamic head scarves in universities of the mainly Muslim but secular nation.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party and the Nationalist Action Party said in a statement the two parties agreed to make changes in the constitution and the Higher Education Law to allow female students wearing head scarves into universities.

A constitutional change would need a two-thirds majority in the 550-seat assembly. The two parties have more than enough legislators.

Wearing of head scarves in universities was first banned shortly after a military coup in 1980, but implementation of the ban has varied over the years.

Erdogan, a devout Muslim, vowed to end the ban during his election campaign last summer. He scored a resounding victory against the secularist opposition.

The staunchly secularist Republican People’s Party has repeatedly said lifting the ban would harm the nation’s secular traditions.


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