Turkish reforms aim to increase democracy in country

Sept. 30, 2013 at 1:56 PM

ANKARA, Turkey, Sept. 30 (UPI) -- Headscarves will be allowed in public institutions and rights for ethnic minorities improved in a package of reforms revealed Monday by Turkey's prime minister.

The proposed changes, anticipated as the country works to move toward greater democracy, were introduced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a press conference, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

The reforms would allow Muslim women to keep their heads covered when they enter government buildings. Judges, prosecutors, police officers and members of the army will still be prohibited from wearing headscarves.

Another change will allow private schools to teach in the Kurdish language. The ban on the use of certain letters used in Kurdish also has been lifted.

The ability to use letters such as "q," "w" and "x" will allow villages with formerly non-Turkish names to use their original names.

Other changes will eliminate the phrase "I'm Turkish, right, and hardworking" from the student oath and an institution to preserve the Roma language and culture will be established.

Penalties for hate crimes will be increased and rules for political rallies and demonstrations will be loosened.

"This package is not a first and will not be the last of such reforms," Erdogan said.

He added changes to the country's election system are also under consideration.

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