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Saturday, May 15, 1999 Published at 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK

World: Middle East

Headscarf deputy loses citizenship

Merve Kavakci could be expelled from the country

A Turkish woman politician who caused uproar when she wore an Islamic-style headscarf in parliament has been stripped of her Turkish citizenship.

The BBC's Chris Morris: "The symbolic shadow of her headscarf will linger"
Turkish President, Suleyman Demirel, ratified the decree which means that deputy Merve Kavakci - a member of the Islamist Virtue Party - will lose her parliamentary seat and could even be forced to leave Turkey.

Turkey, which is officially secular, regards the wearing of the Muslim headscarf as a pro-Islamic statement and has banned them in public institutions.

The move to remove Ms Kavakci's Turkish citizenship began after she was found to have taken dual American citizenship without informing the authorities.

She took US citizenship on 5 March, ahead of her election on 18 April. Her father is a Muslim cleric in Texas.

"Dual citizenship is permissible under Turkish law, but Kavakci should have obtained Turkish permission before acquiring a second passport," Prime Miniser Bulent Ecevit said.

The decree stripping her of citizenship will take effect as soon as it is published in the official journal.

The elections commission will then meet on annulling her seat in parliament.

Coalition talks

Fresh trouble over headscarves is already brewing for Prime Minister Ecevit, who is attempting to assemble a coalition government.

The ultra right-wing Nationalist Action Party is the second-largest party in parliament. It wants an end to the ban on students wearing headscarves in universities, while Mr Ecevit is adamant that it must be maintained.

The prime minister will meet party leaders for a second round of talks next week. He still appears confident that a strong government will emerge.

Last week, Turkey's chief prosecutor began legal moves to ban the Virtue Party on the grounds that it is trying to overthrow the country's constitution by persisting with its support for Ms Kavakci.

She failed to attend parliament on Wednesday when it reconvened for the first time since the headscarf row erupted.

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