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Ending ban on Islamic headscarf divides Turkey

Ending ban on Islamic headscarf divides Turkey
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One day after the lifting of a nearly 90-year-old ban on women wearing the Islamic headscarf in Turkey’s state institutions the issue remains as divisive as ever.

Being religious or secular dictates the response.

For Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan it is a positive move and one of his reforms meant to improve democracy.

Speaking in parliament, the Turkish leader said:“A painful ban that has caused a lot of suffering to the parents of young people is lifted. A dark era has come to an end.”

The decades old ban has kept many women from joining the public work force. Supporters of the scarf see the change as the restoration of freedom of religious expression.

Teacher Safiye Ozdemir is one of them:“According to the former regulation if you wore a headscarf, you could receive a warning and a reprimand within a certain period. Nothing else was said – it was done without even asking us to explain ourselves.”

Erdogan’s critics see his Islamist-rooted AK Party as seeking to erode the secular foundations of the republic.

Ilknur Cokbelgit lives in Istanbul and does not approve:“This is not good. I can’t even imagine a civic officer wearing a headscarf. This was not the right decision to take,” she said.

The lifting of the ban forms part of the government named “democratisation package revealed last week which also included measures to bolster the rights of Turkey’s Kurdish community.