Bosnia:Hijab ban is to exclude educated women from the system

All professionals including Lawyers, prosecutors and others employed in judicial institutions of Bosnia can no longer wear hijab.

This is the first time such a decision has been made in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Although the decision was announced in October 2015, it was only two weeks ago that it came into effect, sparking an outcry among citizens and within the Muslim community.

Hanadi Salkica has been working as a lawyer since 2007 in the central city of Zenica. She says her hijab is not a religious symbol but a way of life and a personal style of dress.

Critics argue saying the decision violates the basic human rights such as the freedom of religion and the right to work as protected under the UN Declaration and European Convention on Human Rights and in all of Bosnia’s constitutions.

“No one is saying that by wearing a religious symbol, the person is biased. But the fact is that the third party who is in court, who is being tried, can be prejudiced and think that there is no neutrality,” says Milan Tegeltija, the president of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council.

Reacting to the ban Seta says, “Even if it appears as neutral and as if [the ban] applies to everyone, in reality it targets mostly one specific group – educated women who wear the hijab,”.

“This is something that tries to exclude educated, professional women from the system.”

Seta says that the decision is especially problematic because it implies that women who wear the hijab cannot carry out their job professionally because they are biased.

According to the preliminary results of the 2013 population census, 50 percent of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s population is Muslim.

Salkica explains that today there are plenty of professional women who wear the hijab but face limitations in their careers due to discrimination, regardless of the field they are in.

Since news of the ban broke, online petitions have gone viral and marches have been held in various cities. On February 1, for World Hijab Day, hijab-wearing activists posted photos of themselves holding signs with the hashtag #unbiased.

This is not the first time the hijab has sparked controversy in the country. In 2012, Emela Mujanovic, an officer in Bosnia’s armed forces, was suspended after she refused to remove her hijab. The case was taken to Bosnia’s Constitutional Court, which concluded that her right to practice her religion had not been violated.