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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 January 2008, 15:58 GMT
New move to lift Turkey scarf ban
Protest in Istanbul against the headscarf ban in schools and universities (October 2007)
Some women refuse to go to university because of the ban
The governing party in Turkey and a key opposition party have agreed to work together to lift a ban on the Islamic headscarf in universities.

The Islamist-rooted ruling AK Party and the nationalist MHP said it was an issue of human rights and freedoms.

Together the two parties have enough votes in parliament to overturn the constitutional ban on headscarves.

Headscarves were banned in schools and universities in 1980 after a coup by the pro-secular armed forces.

The Turkish army sees itself as the guardian of the secular tradition laid out by Kemal Ataturk, who created the modern Turkish state - secular, but Muslim majority - out of the ruins of the Ottoman empire after World War I.

It regards the public wearing of headscarves as a political statement aimed at undermining secular principles.

'Rights and freedoms'

However, opinion polls suggest there is strong public support for lifting the ban.

And some women refuse to go to university because of it.

"The issue of the headscarf was evaluated in terms of rights and freedoms," the two parties said in a statement.

A power struggle last year between secular forces and the governing AK Party ended with the AKP being comprehensively re-elected in July.

It is not yet clear how the secular elite - army generals, judges and university officials - will react to the government's latest move.

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