In Brussels, Mahinur Ozdemir, 26, has become the first deputy wearing a Muslim headscarf to be sworn into the regional parliament.
Coming the day after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the burqa was not welcome in France, Ozdemir’s colleagues said it was about personal choice.
After the ceremony, Ozdemir, from the Democrat Humanist Centre, said she wanted to be recognised for her achievements and not her headwear.
“Unfortunately, I have been reduced to nothing more than this scarf, and frankly it is hard to remove yourself from it,” she said. “Underneath this veil there is a personality, there is someone who is engaged, who wants things to change, who wants to move forward and execute lots of projects for the people of Brussels.”
During her election campaign, Ozdemir was targeted by hardline activists due to her headscarf. She served as a member of the municipal council in Shaerbeek, which is known as the “Turkish neighbourhood” of Brussels.