Ban On Head Scarves Lifted In Turkish State Institutions

Turkey has lifted a decades-old ban on Islamic head scarves in state institutions as part of a wide-ranging reform package.

In a speech to his ruling-party lawmakers on October 8, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that his government has abolished "an archaic provision which was against the spirit of the republic."

"With the amendment to the regulations on employees' appearances, a painful ban that has caused a lot of suffering to the parents of young people is lifted," he added. "A dark era has come to an end. But I want to reiterate that we are not offering privileges to anybody. On the contrary, we are finally recognizing the right to believe for those who have been deprived of this for years."

The new rules were published in the Official Gazette and came into effect immediately in the majority-Muslim but constitutionally secular nation.

Female civil servants are now allowed to wear the veil.

However, the restriction, which dates back to 1925, remains in place in the judiciary and the military.

An end to state primary school children reciting the oath of national allegiance at the beginning of each week also took effect on October 8.

The ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party has been accused of eroding the secular foundations of the republic, which was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923 after the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.

Supporters of Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, particularly in the country's conservative Anatolian heartlands, see the prime minister as simply redressing the balance and restoring freedom of religious expression to Turkey's Muslim majority.

His government had already relaxed a ban in the country's universities.

The new reform package is largely aimed at bolstering the rights of Turkey's Kurdish minority. It changes the electoral system, broadens language rights, and gives Kurdish villages to use their indigenous names.