Tunisian Prime Minister signs decree to ban face veils in public institutions, government offices

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Monday, July 8, 2019

On Friday, Youssef Chahed, the Prime Minister of Tunisia, signed a government decree banning anyone wearing a Niqab from entering a public institution or government offices. A niqab is a face-veil, which covers almost the entire face, and is commonly worn by Muslim females as a religious garment.

A Tunisian woman in Niqab.
Image: Rais58.

"Chahed signed a government decree that bars any person with an undisclosed face from access to public headquarters, administrations, institutions, for security reasons", a government official said. This decision comes after a couple of suicide bombings took place in the country's capital, Tunis, last month. Reportedly, two people were killed and at least eight people were injured in a suicide bombing that happened on June 27. According to eyewitness reports, the suicide bomber wore a face veil covering, the niqab. In the span of one week, at least three suicide bombings took place in Tunisia. The militant organisation, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, claimed responsibility for all three attacks.

Speaking to Agence France-Presse, the president of the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights, Jamel Msallem, said, "We are for the freedom to dress, but today with the current situation and the terrorist threats in Tunisia and across the region we find justifications for this decision". A member of the Tunisian Parliament, Samir Dilou said, "Tunisia is facing terrorist attacks, so every measure which is led by security motives is understandable".

After an attack in the capital city in 2015, a bill was proposed in 2016 for banning the niqab, but was not passed. Souhail Alouini, a member of Parliament, said, "We proposed a bill in 2016 about this subject and it has still not been debated [...] Maybe it is time now."

Tunisia's neighbouring Muslim-majority African countries including Algeria and Morocco have cited security concerns to impose bans on niqabs. Previously, another Islamic religious garment, the hijab was banned in Tunisian public offices during Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's Presidency. That ban was lifted in 2011.

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