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Turkish parties urge headscarf ruling

  • Story Highlights
  • Turkey's ruling party agrees to lift ban on head scarves in universities
  • Ban introduced after military coup in 1980 as seen as a sign of religion
  • Turkey is a secular nation but its population is mainly Muslim
  • Proposal has brought protests among the secular population
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(CNN) -- Two of Turkey's main political parties are pushing for a constitutional amendment to lift bans on headscarves at public universities, a move that has caused concern among Turkey's secular population.

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The lifting of the ban on headscarves has caused concern among Turkey's secular population.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan initiated the move, saying it would create equality in Turkey's higher education.

The constitutional commission will discuss the proposal -- submitted by the AKP and MHP parties -- in the coming days before sending it to the floor for a vote.

If approved, it would need President Abdullah Gul's approval, which is expected.

Under the proposal, veils, burqas or chaddors -- all of which cover a woman's face -- would not be allowed.

Bans on headcoverings were imposed in the early 1980s by Turkey's universities because they were seen as political symbols and conflicted with Turkey's secular governing system.

The proposal to change Turkey's constitution sent chills through Turkey's secular population. Women's groups went to parliament Tuesday to voice their rejection.

"This is a direct threat to the republic and its foundations," said Deniz Baykal, leader of Turkey's main secular party, CHP.

Another CHP lawmaker said she fears that if the proposal is enacted, parents will feel pressure to have their daughters wear headscarves, even in elementary school.

Mustafa Akaydin, head of Turkey's Higher Education Commission, is against the proposal. He said that allowing headscarves would be a rejection of Turkey's secular system of government.

"It is an attempt to create a counterrevolution," Akaydin said. "It will be a breaking point."

He said a majority of female high school students at one school were wearing headscarves during last weekend's entry exams -- a rarity in Turkish schools.

The Higher Education Commission will meet Friday in Ankara to discuss the proposed changes. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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