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Iran women MPs back Turkish colleague in scarf row

TEHRAN, May 12 (Reuters) - Women deputies in Iran have voiced support for a Turkish MP who prompted a row in neighbouring Turkey by entering parliament wearing a Moslem headscarf, Iranian media reported on Wednesday.

``Do not feel alone. Hundreds of millions of noble Moslem women across the world support you and anxiously follow the news about you,'' moderate MP Faezeh Hashemi told Turkish woman deputy Merve Kavakci in a letter, quoted by the daily Entekhab.

A group of women parliament deputies wrote in a separate letter to Kavakci: ``At the start of the third millennium, it is amazing to witness such unacceptable behaviour to pressure those who have chosen an Islamic way of dress, as the right to chose one's dress is recognised as a human right.''

The official news agency IRNA, which quoted the letter, did not say how many of the 14 women MPs in Iran's 270-seat parliament had signed it.

The letters came amid tension between the two countries after Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit accused Iran of promoting radical Islam and backing Kurdish rebels. The Islamic republic denied the charges.

Turkey's Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian ambassador on Tuesday to express concern at demonstrations in Tehran in favour of Islamist deputy Kavakci who challenged the country's secularist ideals by wearing a Moslem headscarf in parliament.

Under Iran's Islamic dress code women must cover all except their face and hands in public. Residents say police enforcement of the code has eased somewhat since moderate President Mohammad Khatami took office in 1997 with a mandate for social and political reforms.


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