Hundreds of people protested in Azerbaijan today for the right to wear Islamic head scarves in schools, challenging the strictly secular regime.
Correspondents say up to 1,000 people took part in the protest outside the Ministry of Education -- far more than Azerbaijan's opposition has mustered in recent years to demand reforms.
There is no explicit ban on the wearing of head scarves in schools, but the government in Baku this year introduced a standard school uniform which precludes traditional Islamic dress.
On December 9, Education Minister Misir Mardanov told reporters that every middle school student in the country must wear the standard school uniform in class but is free to wear anything else outside school walls.
Authorities in Baku require religious communities to register with the state and have closed or demolished several mosques in recent years.