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Friday, May 14, 1999 Published at 23:00 GMT 00:00 UK

World: Middle East

Ayatollah attacks 'hypocritical' Turkey

Many Iranians regard the headscarf as a symbol of the Islamic revolution

A senior Iranian conservative cleric, Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati, has attacked Turkey over the treatment of a female deputy who appeared in the Turkish parliament wearing an Islamic-style headscarf.

The MP, Merve Kavakci, had tried to take her parliamentary oath of office wearing an Islamic style headscarf.

But she was forced to leave the building by other MPs before she could do so.

Now she is facing a move by the government to strip her of her nationality on the grounds that she failed to inform the authorities that she had taken dual citizenship by becoming a US citizen.

Speaking at Friday prayers in Tehran, Ayatollah Jannati said Ms Kavakci, was being treated shamefully.


[ image: Merve Kavakci was jeered out of parliament before taking her oath]
Merve Kavakci was jeered out of parliament before taking her oath
"Imagine a country where the officials and authorities are so dogmatic and anti-religious and anti-freedom that they cannot tolerate half a metre of fabric on a woman's head," he said in his sermon.

BBC regional analyst Pam O'Toole says Ayatollah Jannati, regarded as a supporter of Iran's conservative faction, might be expected to take a hard line on this issue.

Powerful symbol

In Iran, the headscarf is regarded as a powerful symbol of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and since then Iranian women have not been permitted to appear in public with more than their face and hands uncovered.

The incident is threatening to sour relations between Iran and Turkey with many more pious Iranians saying the action against Ms Kavakci violated her human rights.

There have been a number of student demonstrations in support of her and female Iranian MPs have written a letter of solidarity.

Accusations of meddling

Ankara has accused Tehran of meddling in Turkey's internal affairs - a charge denied by the Iranians.

However, correspondents say the moderate Iranian President, Mohammed Khatami, is likely to do his best to play down the dispute in order to keep relations on an even keel.

On Thursday,he made a point of sending a message of friendship to his Turkish counterpart while overflying Turkey on his way to the Middle East.

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