Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan removes ban on headscarves in 'democracy package'

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The Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has revealed a wide range of reforms in a “democracy package” that includes the removal of secular rules banning headscarves and greater freedoms for Kurdish minorities.

Describing the changes as a historic step on the path to a more inclusive society, the reforms are particularly aimed at appealing to the country’s Kurdish and Roma groups.

The measures include the lifting of a ban on using certain letters – such as “q”, “w” and “x” – which are important to minority languages but not contained in the official Turkish alphabet. The most controversial change, however, will be the removal of the ban on headscarves in public institutions, a 90-year-old law designed to keep religion out of politics.

Outraged commentators on Twitter described this as an example of the Prime Minister’s “Islamic secret agenda”, but Liberal Democrat MEP Andrew Duff said the majority of today’s announcement was “welcome as far as it goes” – despite concerns it “is not the major leap forward that European Union and Turkish liberals were hoping for”.

The government hopes that the bulk of the reforms will help to pave the way for conclusive peace talks with restive Turkish groups and a drive towards greater stability and integration.