ISTANBUL, Turkey — ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Defying protests by secular Turks, lawmakers voted yesterday to amend the constitution to allow women to wear Islamic head scarves at universities. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a self-described conservative democrat who leads a party that has its roots in political Islam, had described the ban as an obstacle to young women's seeking an education. After scoring a solid win in parliamentary elections last summer, his AK party had pledged to work to lift the long-standing restrictions. Turkey is overwhelmingly Muslim but officially secular, with a separation of mosque and state that dates to the founding of the republic in 1923. The country's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, banned religious dress in public buildings and imposed the Latin alphabet over Arabic script. Before the vote in the capital, Ankara, tens of thousands of secular Turks took to the streets, waving the red national flag. "Turkey is secular and will remain so!" they chanted. Yesterday's second and final vote by lawmakers, 411-103, cleared the way for the measure to be signed by Prime Minister Abdullah Gul, who has indicated he will approve the constitutional changes. But Erdogan and his party, who have helped push forward Turkey's bid to join the European Union, described the measure as in keeping with religious freedom. The ruling party said, however, that regulations would be issued forbidding women from wearing face-covering veils or full-length chadors on campus. Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party said it would appeal the issue to the Constitutional Court. But some noted secularists, including Turkey's best-known author, Orhan Pamuk, refused to condemn the lifting of the ban. Yesim Comert writes for the Los Angeles Times.