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Tunisia: hotels ban the Burkini

Twenty-year-old trainee volunteer surf life saver Mecca Laalaa runs along North Cronulla Beach in Sydney wearing a burkini [REUTERS/Tim Wimborne]

A number of Tunisian hotels are preventing women who wear the, so-called, ‘Burkini’ swimwear from accessing to private swimming pools, claiming that this swimwear is dangerous.

The Burkini is a type of swimwear designed by the Lebanese-born Australian fashion designer, Aheda Zanetti. It is a swimsuit that covers the entire body except the face, hands, and feet. It is rubbery enough to facilitate swimming and is popular among European Muslims.

Al-Khaleej Online contacted the Tunisian Ministry of Tourism. However, the Ministry did not provide any explanation.

Commenting on the ban, Imed Daïmi, Rapporteur of the Committee of Rights, Freedoms, and External Relations at the Tunisian Chamber of Deputies, described the decision of some hotels to ban veiled women’s dress as “unconstitutional” and “illegal”.

In an interview with Al-Khaleej Online, Daïmi said that this ban violates the freedom of foreign citizens and tourists. It is also a discrimination against female Tunisian citizens and female tourists from Arab countries, especially Algerian and Libyan tourists.

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The Tunisian MP said that Algerian and Libyan tourists saved the previous tourist seasons, after the Europeans did not visit Tunisia.

He pointed out that this measure, taken after the return of European tourists is discriminatory against Arab tourists.

Discrimination against veiled women

Tunisian blogger Fatma Al-Sharif posted on her Facebook page: “Today in Tunisia, veiled women are prevented from swimming, because their swimsuits pollute the pools!” Every year, the list of hotels that commit such a discriminatory act is expanding because women are silent about this injustice especially when customers pay the hotel fees without knowing about this ban in advance.”

Al-Sharif posted a short list of hotels that prevent veiled women from swimming (31 hotels) and commented by saying: “The freedom of dressing is for all and not for only one category. We have suffered oppression for 23 years and it is still being practiced in different ways.”

In August 2016, Muslim women wearing Burkini in the beaches of France provoked wide controversy after the mayor of Nice forbade it, and the police forced a woman take off the Burkini on the beach in front of other holiday makers.

A few days after this ban, the French Council of State, France’s highest judicial body, decided to suspend the decision to ban the Burkini swimsuit and warned mayors who have taken such a decision that any ban on such dress should be based on “justified risks” on the general order.

The Decree of the Council of State affirmed that “the banning decision, has severely and illegally affected the fundamental freedoms which are freedom of movement, freedom of conscience, and personal freedom”.

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