Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish; JURIST news archive] announced [press release] on Monday that Turkey will end a ban on women wearing traditional Islamic headscarves in public institutions. The lifting of the ban is part of a package of human rights reforms [ABC News report] that Erdogan proposed, which also include allowing Kurdish language education and reducing barriers to entry for Kurdish political parties. The new rules regarding headscarves will not apply to the military or the judiciary, however. For decades, Turkey has imposed tough restrictions [Al Jazeera report] on the clothing that women working in the public sector can wear.
Niqabs, burqas and other traditional Muslim garments have been a controversial subject worldwide. Last week a region of Switzerland voted [JURIST report] to ban the wearing of full-face veils. Two weeks ago a UK court ruled [JURIST report] that a Muslim woman who is a defendant in an upcoming trial must remove her full-face veil when presenting evidence. Earlier that week a Quebec official proposed a bill [JURIST report] banning religious headwear for public workers. In February the Spanish Supreme Court [official website, in Spanish] struck down [JURIST report] a city ban on wearing veils over the face in municipal buildings. Belgium officially banned [JURIST report] burqas in July 2011. France's ban on burqas took effect [JURIST report] in April 2011. Some commentators have suggested that the rationales behind the European burqa bans are weak [JURIST op-ed] and that the true purpose of the bills is societal discomfort.