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Bosnian Women Protest Hijab Ban

SARAJEVO – A ban imposed on wearing Islamic hijab in judicial institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has sent hundreds of Muslim women protesting in the streets, demanding end to the ban as World Hijab Day event was marked across the world.

“It is their basic human right to carry and dress in the way they want. The decision to prohibit the hijab is absurd because it is not a religious symbol,” Azra Hasanbegović, director of the Association of Women of BiH, told Independent Balkan News Agency on Monday, February 1.

“In fact, religious symbols exist in many offices and it should be abolished. I know women who are very smart, talented and educated and working in responsible positions and now they have to choose a job or way of dressing. It is real absurd,” she stated.

Though Hasanbegović does not wear a hijab herself, she joined other women who protested against the decision of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council BiH which forbid all religious clothes in the judiciary institutions in BiH.

At the protest, women held banners reading, “My hijab My Pride”, “My hijab -My right” and “Reversal of hijab is the abolition of identity”.

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Donning their hijab, demonstrators walked from Musala Square, Fejic street, through Old Town, and over the Old Bridge.

The protest was held as women, either Muslims or non-Muslims, marked the fourth anniversary of the World Hijab Day event.

On February 1, millions Muslim and non-Muslim women wearing a traditional Islamic head scarf will march on the streets of 116 countries to mark the third anniversary of World Hijab Day.

The World Hijab Day, held for the third consecutive year, is the brain child of a New York resident, Nazma Khan, who came up with the idea as a means to foster religious tolerance and understanding.

Suggesting the event, Khan wanted to encourage non-Muslim women to don the hijab and experience it before judging Muslim women.

She also saw the event as a best chance to counteract some of the controversies surrounding why Muslim women choose to wear the hijab.


The march received support from politicians, including Selma Jakupovic, a member of the Parliament of the Federation of BiH and medical doctor, who equated the ban on headscarves with the ban of freedom of expression.

“I support the decision to abolish religious symbols in public institutions, which is what it should be, but this is the same as to forbid long or short skirts, which is a form of freedom of expression”, Jakupovic said to media on the event.

Ernesa Bihorac, a professor of Bosniak language and literature, agreed.

“I want to show that the citizens of BiH don’t agree with this decision. It’s not just about religious freedom, but in general the freedom and identity of the man to do what he considers is the best for him,” Bihorac explained.

“This decision is in conflict with the BiH Constitution, because the Constitution guarantees us freedom of thought and expression.”

Bosnia, a small country on the Balkan Peninsula, is home to three ethnic “constituent peoples”: mainly Muslim Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.

Out of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s nearly 4 million population, some 40 percent are Muslims, 31 percent Orthodox Christians and 10 percent Catholics.

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.