Article Cameroon: Far North Region Bans Burka, Face-Covering Veils

(July 22, 2015) It was reported on July 17, 2015, that Cameroon’s Far North Region instituted a ban on July 15 against women wearing burkas (a covering for the face and the whole body) and veils that cover the face. The ban comes in the aftermath of two suicide bombings, said to have been instigated by Boko Haram, an Islamic militant group based in Nigeria, carried out by women who smuggled the explosives under their veils. At least 14 people were said to have been killed as a result of the two attacks. (Sarah Boehme, Northern Cameroon Bans Face Veils After Suicide Bombings, PAPER CHASE (July 17, 2015); Edwin Kindzeka Moki, Northern Cameroon Bans Burkas and Face Coverings After Suicide Bombings, AP (July 15, 2015); What’s the Difference Between a Hijab, Niqab and Burka?, BBC (June 18, 2015).)

Midjiyawa Bakari, the region’s governor, stated that Muslims in the region have also now been banned from meeting in large groups and that any women wearing the veil are to be stopped by the police and the military. Bakari added, “[w]e are also systematically checking all vehicles, and controlling all luggage and the population should collaborate because there is a serious security threat to our nation.” (Moki, supra.) Additional measures include a ban on motorcycle traffic at night and on vehicles with tinted windows. In the capital city of Cameroon, Yaoundé, Muslim worshippers are already no longer permitted to enter mosques with bags and pouches. (After the Double Bombing of Fotokol, the Far North of Cameroon Bans the Full Veil, FRANCE24 (July 16, 2015) (in French).)

Nevertheless, Bakari acknowledged that the ban on wearing the veil would not in and of itself be sufficient to eliminate the risk of the attacks, noting that a terrorist could easily hide an explosive device in a robe or jacket, and that they can use motorcycles, motorbikes being a preferred mode of transport by Boko Haram. (Id.) While there have been some protests against the ban, based on the argument that “wearing a burka is not a choice and that it is necessary to wear for religious reasons,” government officials reportedly will keep the interdiction in place “as long as necessary to prevent further attacks.” (Boehme, supra.)

The July 12 attack took place in Fotokol, a small town on the Cameroon-Nigeria border; in February of this year, in a separate incident, a reported 800 Boko Haram fighters shot or burned to death some 90 civilians and wounded 500 in the town. (Boko Haram Kills 90 Civilians and Wounds 500 in Cameroon Attacks, GUARDIAN (Feb. 5, 2015).) A press report citing the country’s National Institute of Statistics noted that about 20% of Cameroon’s 22 million people are Muslim, 40% Christians, and the remainder holders of traditional beliefs. (Moki, supra.)

For similar reasons to those in Cameroon, the full veil was banned in mid-June in Chad and last May in public places in Congo-Brazzaville. Although Gabon has been spared thus far from any of the violent attacks, it decided on July 16 to tighten controls on women wearing the veil. (After the Double Bombing of Fotokol, the Far North of Cameroon Bans the Full Veil, supra.)

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Cameroon: Far North Region Bans Burka, Face-Covering Veils
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Cameroon: Far North Region Bans Burka, Face-Covering Veils. 2015. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2015-07-22/cameroon-far-north-region-bans-burka-face-covering-veils/.

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(2015) Cameroon: Far North Region Bans Burka, Face-Covering Veils. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2015-07-22/cameroon-far-north-region-bans-burka-face-covering-veils/.

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Cameroon: Far North Region Bans Burka, Face-Covering Veils. 2015. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2015-07-22/cameroon-far-north-region-bans-burka-face-covering-veils/>.

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