For the first time in 90 years, women in Turkey are now allowed to wear the Islamic head scarf in the workplace or at university.
Although wearing the veil on the streets was allowed, it had been outlawed in all public institutions since 1925.
The founder of the secular Turkish republic, Mustafa Ataturk, passed the decree banishing overt symbols of religious affiliation for civil servants.
Many women, particularly Kurds, had been unable to study or join the workforce.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the new law would bring greater democracy: “The old regulation included restrictions on women and men’s appearances and this was a violation and discrimination against the freedom of religion and consciousness, it was discriminatory,” Erdogan said.
The prime minister’s critics see the move as evidence of a “secret Islamic agenda” that his AK party is trying to push through.
The change is part of a package of reforms including greater freedom for Kurdish minorities and the lifting of a ban on using letters such as “q”, “w” and “x”, part of minority languages, but not in the official Turkish alphabet.
There will also be an end to Turkish primary school children having to recite a vow of national allegiance each week.