"Let us assume that it is worn as a political symbol. Is that a crime? Can you ban symbols? Where in the free world is there such a ban? We will solve this as soon as possible," Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan challenge during a Euro Press meeting in Madrid, where he has been attending the Forum of the Alliance of Civilisations.
"Can you forbid symbols?"
Answering the questions of European journalists, Erdogan was asked about the headscarf. Hürriyet news quoted Erdogan as saying that the headscarf in Turkey was being opposed on the grounds that it was being used as a political symbol.
The Ntvmsnbc.com news website quoted Erdogan as saying: "In Europe and the USA, girls wearing headscarfs can easily go to university. But in a country with 99 percent Muslims, it is forbidden. But I believe we will overcome this problem. We are aware of our responsibilities. I believe in a solution in terms of freedoms."
"Article 301 is on our agenda"
Erdogan further said that "Article 301 is on the government's agenda. We will take our project back to parliament soon and make a decision. We especially looked at the situation in other EU countries. Within a month we will have agreed on a text to take to parliament."
Asked whether cross-border operations in Northern Iraq had ended, Erdogan answered: "Our sensitivity as far as operations are concerned is continuing. Depending on incoming intelligence, there may be operations at any time."
Answering another question, Erdogan said: "In Turkey, ethnic elements are not concentrated in one geographical area. There is no question of ethnicities separating in Turkey. We see our country as a unitary state. There is no question of something like this being part of our constitutional reform."
Alliance of Civilisations
The Forum of the Alliance of Civilisations was brought to life under the joint leadership of Spain and Turkey and is being supported by the United Nations. At the project's first forum, 350 guests from over 70 countries will take part.
One of the projects on the agenda is the creation of a delegation which would intervene in moments of crises. Another plan is to make a film which would introduce Islam to the West. In addition, there are plans to create a prize similar to the Nobel Peace Prize to award people contributing to the alliance of civilisations.
The Forum will be opened by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Spanish Premier Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, UN General Secretary Ban Ki-mun and High Representative of the Alliance of Civilisations, Jorge Sampaio.
The Turkish Prime Minister is accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Babacan, Minister of Transport Binali Yildirim and Minister of Industry and Trade Zafer Caglayan. Erdogan's visit to Spain will end on 16 January. (NZ/TK/AG)