Bulgarian parliament last Friday banned the wearing of face veils in public a move they have defended would boost security after Islamist militant attacks in Europe. However, human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the ruling saying, the ban violates rights of Bulgarian women to freedom of expression and religion, calling it part of a disturbing trend of intolerance, xenophobia and racism in the Black Sea state.
“Women in Bulgaria should be free to dress as they please and to wear the burqa or the niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs,” said Amnesty International’s Europe Director John Dalhuisen.
“Legitimate security concerns can be met with targeted restrictions on the complete covering of the face in well-defined high risk locations and not through a blanket discriminatory ban such as this.” He said.
The ruling center-right GERB party maintains that the ban is only aimed at boosting national security and allowing better video surveillance and has nothing to do with religious outfits.
“The law is not directed against religious communities and is not repressive. We made a very good law for the safety of our children.”
Senior GERB lawmaker Krasimir Velchev said.
However, the ethnic Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms refused to take part in the vote saying, “the ban would incite ethic and religious intolerance.”
According to the law, clothing hiding the face may not be worn in government offices, schools, cultural institutions and places of public recreation, but exceptions are allowed for health or professional reasons. Anyone found not complying with the ban in Bulgaria faces fines up to 1,500 levs ($860), as well as suspension of social benefits.