Turkish Headscarf Bill Axed

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey's ruling AK party appeared to move a step closer to being shut down Thursday when the Constitutional Court overturned a reform that would have allowed women to wear headscarves in universities.

The headscarf amendment plays a central role in a separate, more crucial case that seeks to outlaw the AK Party for anti-secular activities, and ban 71 members, including the prime minister and the president, from belonging to a political party for five years.

"This guarantees the closure of the party. I don't think we can talk of any calm before full chaos," said Cengiz Aktar, a political scientist at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University.

The Constitutional Court said in a statement it upheld an appeal from the opposition CHP party, seeking to block a legal amendment allowing students to wear the garment on campus.

More conservative secularists saw the amendment as a violation of strict separation between Mosque and state, and evidence that the AK party has a secret agenda to introduce a system of Islamic law. AK denies such ambitions and has introduced many social reforms aimed at European Union membership.

AK has roots in political Islam and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan served a prison sentence for Islamist activity in the 1990s. But it was formed, six years ago, as a broad coalition of religious conservatives, nationalists, market liberals and center-right activists.