Turkish nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) on Saturday held a protest in Istanbul against a ban on the Muslim headscarf or hijab in the Indian state of Karnataka.
Organized by the Free Thought and Educational Rights Society (Özgürder) and Association for Human Rights and Solidarity for the Oppressed (Mazlumder), the demonstration took place around the Indian Consulate after Muslim girls were barred from classes in some Indian colleges for wearing the hijab.
Addressing the protest, Özgürder chair Rıdvan Kaya said the ban was the culmination of anti-Muslim tendencies and Indian nationalism, emboldened in recent years.
He also underlined that the "suppression" of 200 million Indian Muslims must come to an end.
Human rights activist and lawyer Gülden Sönmez, for her part, stressed that the ban was unacceptable.
"We don't approve of a ban on the clothes of the members of any religion," she said.
The hijab row started when female Muslim students were barred last month from attending classes at a government college in the Udupi district of the southwestern Karnataka province as they were wearing the headscarf.
Udupi is one of three districts in Karnataka's religiously sensitive coastal region, which is a stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The standoff has increased fear and anger among minority Muslims, who say the country's constitution grants them the freedom to wear what they want. Protests over the ban have escalated, with hundreds demonstrating this month in Kolkata and Chennai.
The issue prompted expressions of support for Muslim girls, women from the United States government and Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai.
Recently, a judge at the state's high court referred petitions challenging the ban to a larger panel.
The issue is being closely watched internationally as a test of religious freedom guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. The U.S. Office of International Religious Freedom (IRF) on Feb. 11 said the hijab bans "violate religious freedom and stigmatize and marginalize women and girls."
In response, India's Foreign Ministry said outside comments over internal issues were not welcome and the matter was under judicial review.