Society / Egypte
babelmed - 25/03/2005
Ghada Al Tawil
Egypt's state-owned television stations have long prevented female announcers from appearing wearing the hegab and over the years, several have been taken off the air when they decided to put on the hegab. In December of 2003 three presenters from the Alexandria station, Hala Al Maliki, Ghada Al Tawil and Rania Radwan, filed suit against the director of Egyptian television, the head of the Alexandria station and the board of trustees for the Radio and Television Union demanding to be allowed to appear on screen wearing their veil and called for an additional LE1 million compensation for the time they have been banned from appearing.
Even after their apparent victory, however, the women remain unconvinced that this is truly the end of the battle. "We know that if the court rules that we should appear on screen veiled, they [the TV authority] will still not allow us to do so."
A TV official, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the decision to prevent the veil from appearing on television isn’t from the head of the Alexandria station, or even the minister of information. He opined that it is a political decision based on the fear that the public spread of Islamic symbols could play into the hands of Islamists, who want to promote sharia (Islamic law) in all spheres of life.
Six years ago, when Al Maliki became the first presenter to take the veil, she was immediately relegated to a off-screen duties, which meant a substantial drop in income. For three years she was consigned to reading lines off-screen and preparing programs.
When other presenters from the Alexandria station followed Al Maliki’s lead, including Al Tawil and Radwan, the situation exploded. With seven presenters in a period of six months, from February to August of 2002, donning the veil, rumors swirled that an Islamist organization was behind the trend. The security department at the television headquarters in Cairo became involved.
“The action was accompanied with more restrictions, like removing the segments of programs which I used to present audibly but invisibly,” said Al Tawil. She was formerly the first face to greet viewers on the Alexandria station, announcing the opening of each program.
After initially making sympathetic noises about their case, Zaynab Suweidan, the director of the broadcast corporation told the women to forget about appearing on air with a veil. Leaving her office, the presenters decided to take the issue to court.
The presenters have received support from local human rights organizations, who sent a delegation to observe one of the court sessions and from the Lawyers’ Syndicate.
“I understand the move to ban me from the screen as a result of my decision to take up the veil; everything has a price to be paid, but I can’t accept to be completely sidelined. I’m 38 but feel as if I am being retired,” said Al Tawil. Sabah Hamamou