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Headscarf wearers at odds over Bulgarian passport rules July 25, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Bulgaria, Turkey, Turkish minority of Bularia.
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Biometric passports to be introduced by newest European Union member Bulgaria would require some Muslims to reveal more of themselves than they say their tradition allows.

For their passport photos, Bulgarians must show a centimetre of their hairline and both ears.

Some Muslims, mostly from the large Turkish majority, reject the requirement as \’invasive.\’

\’For me it is akin to stripping,\’ a young woman told the German Press Agency dpa in front of the Banya Bashi mosque in central Sofia. \’It is a crude invasion of my privacy.\’

The woman wears no headscarf in public but only because she is afraid of losing her job in the public service, she said, requesting to remain anonymous.

Unlike France, Bulgaria – which neighbours Turkey – is not considering any sort of a ban on Muslim clothing such as headscarves or the more radical burka, but authorities are adamant regarding the rules for passports and identity cards.

Ethnic Turks say that the enforcement of those rules reminds them of repression they endured as an unrecognized minority during the Communist regime between the end of World War II and 1989.

Nedzhmi Dabov, the mufti in Smolyan, in southern Bulgaria, says he plans to petition for changes to allow Muslim women to cover everything but their faces in the identity photos.

But until the dispute is settled many deeply religious Muslim women will remain without passports.

\’I will not travel to France,\’ an angry Safie Saidova, 42, told the 24 Chasa daily.

The newspaper ran a photo of Saidova as she wanted to appear in her passport – with the face surrounded by the scarf, no hair or ears in sight.

This is the way Saidova and other Muslim women typically appear in public in Bulgaria. Outside big cities, most Slavic Bulgarians also wear their own version of the headscarf.

Ethnic Turks make up about 10 per cent of Bulgaria\’s population. Unlike fellow Muslims embroiled in clothing controversies in Western Europe, they are not recent immigrants but have lived there since the days of the Ottoman Empire.

Though many in Bulgaria tend to dismiss the row over headscarves and passports as overblown, it is the first clash in a long time between the government and ethnic Turks over a law. Until last year, the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) was a junior partner of the government coalition.

When Prime Minister Boyko Borisov\’s conservative GERB party came to power last year, Borisov formed a coalition with several nationalist parties and without DPS.

Now, as Turks are standing up for what they see as their religious rights, Slavic-Bulgarian nationalism is gaining momentum.

Radicals among Orthodox Christian Bulgarians – who make up a majority of the country\’s 7.6 million inhabitants – do not shy away from showing irritation with the growing number of Turkish women wearing headscarves.

\’Get out of Bulgaria, with your religion and customs,\’ a woman Christian wrote on the website of the private bTv channel. \’Just go to Turkey!\’

Sofia – Biometric passports to be introduced by newest European Union member Bulgaria would require some Muslims to reveal more of themselves than they say their tradition allows.

For their passport photos, Bulgarians must show a centimetre of their hairline and both ears.

Some Muslims, mostly from the large Turkish majority, reject the requirement as ‘invasive.’

‘For me it is akin to stripping,’ a young woman told the German Press Agency dpa in front of the Banya Bashi mosque in central Sofia. ‘It is a crude invasion of my privacy.’

The woman wears no headscarf in public but only because she is afraid of losing her job in the public service, she said, requesting to remain anonymous.

Unlike France, Bulgaria – which neighbours Turkey – is not considering any sort of a ban on Muslim clothing such as headscarves or the more radical burka, but authorities are adamant regarding the rules for passports and identity cards.

Ethnic Turks say that the enforcement of those rules reminds them of repression they endured as an unrecognized minority during the Communist regime between the end of World War II and 1989.

Nedzhmi Dabov, the mufti in Smolyan, in southern Bulgaria, says he plans to petition for changes to allow Muslim women to cover everything but their faces in the identity photos.

But until the dispute is settled many deeply religious Muslim women will remain without passports.

‘I will not travel to France,’ an angry Safie Saidova, 42, told the 24 Chasa daily.

The newspaper ran a photo of Saidova as she wanted to appear in her passport – with the face surrounded by the scarf, no hair or ears in sight.

This is the way Saidova and other Muslim women typically appear in public in Bulgaria. Outside big cities, most Slavic Bulgarians also wear their own version of the headscarf.

Ethnic Turks make up about 10 per cent of Bulgaria’s population. Unlike fellow Muslims embroiled in clothing controversies in Western Europe, they are not recent immigrants but have lived there since the days of the Ottoman Empire.

Though many in Bulgaria tend to dismiss the row over headscarves and passports as overblown, it is the first clash in a long time between the government and ethnic Turks over a law. Until last year, the Turkish Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS) was a junior partner of the government coalition.

When Prime Minister Boyko Borisov’s conservative GERB party came to power last year, Borisov formed a coalition with several nationalist parties and without DPS.

Now, as Turks are standing up for what they see as their religious rights, Slavic-Bulgarian nationalism is gaining momentum.

Radicals among Orthodox Christian Bulgarians – who make up a majority of the country’s 7.6 million inhabitants – do not shy away from showing irritation with the growing number of Turkish women wearing headscarves.

‘Get out of Bulgaria, with your religion and customs,’ a woman Christian wrote on the website of the private bTv channel. ‘Just go to Turkey!’

Comments»

1. just an observer - March 2, 2011

Interesting! Turks in Turkey should reveal their hair for all official pictures! And not nice from the christian lady to make such a remark for their own fellows, no matter what their religions are. Her behaviour shows large degree of intolerance towards diversity… Can she bear being European with all its different group of people?


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