Monday, January 4, 2010

Egypt bypasses face veil ban with flu masks

CAIRO (Mustafa Suleiman)

An Egyptian student filed a complaint Sunday for being forced to remove a flu mask she wore as a way of circumventing a recent ban on the face veil on university grounds.

Amal Lotfi filed an official complaint with the East Cairo prosecution after school officials prevented from entering the campus of Ain Shams University wearing a flu mask. A move, she said, that was in violation of the instructions given by the Ministry of Health regarding swine flu protection.

" We will keep going to court till we get a ruling in our favor "
Amal Lotfi

Lotfi and her colleagues had to take off the face veil after the ban imposed by three universities; Cairo, Ain Shams, and Helwan. After the Cairo Administrative Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by 55 face-veiled students to annul the universities’ decision, they then resorted to wearing flu masks until they win the legal battle.

“We will keep going to court till we get a ruling in our favor,” Lotfi told Al Arabiya. “But till this happens, we have decided to wear the masks so that we do not give up our right to cover our faces.”

She explained that she and her colleagues had to find a way around the ban in order not to miss classes, especially since exams will start soon. Exams in Egyptian universities are scheduled for mid-January.

According to the Administrative Court ruling, university administrators have the right to stop face-veiled students from writing their exams as the inability to see students’ faces makes the proctoring process harder and increases the chances of cheating.

University officials reported many cases where face-veiled students were caught cheating through a cell phone hidden under their scarves.

Nezar Ghorab, the lawyer of the aggrieved students, argued that all these steps taken by the Egyptian government and the university administrations illustrate the prosecution that face-veiled women in Egypt face.

“Wearing the face-veil is a matter of personal freedom and this is granted by law,” he told Al Arabiya.

A few weeks ago, the court ruled in favor of face-veiled students after they filed a lawsuit protesting a ban that restricted their access to university hostels.

For years, the Egyptian government has been against the face-veil for the security hazards it is likely to trigger and because of the problems it causes in cases where a woman is supposed to show her face to have her identity verified such as in driving license checkpoints.

According to government reports, many crimes have also been committed by men pretending to be women by wearing a face veil.

(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).