Hair today? Gambia lifts headscarf edict


The Gambia reversed a new law Thursday forcing female civil servants to cover their hair, insisting that women were the president's "best friends" and should not be upset by government decisions. A memorandum circulated among public officials before the New Year had announced that women working in government were to "use (a) head tie and neatly wrap their hair" from 31 December.

But a statement from President Yahya Jammeh's office said the directive had been dropped, adding that demanding the wearing of headscarves "had nothing to do with religion". "Women are (Jammeh's) best friends, they are his sisters and he is here for their well-being and happiness at all times. That being the case, this decision that makes them unhappy has been lifted," it said.

The ruling followed the president's categorisation of the small, predominantly Muslim country in mid-December as "an Islamic state". "Gambia's destiny is in the hands of the Almighty Allah... We will be an Islamic state that will respect the rights of the citizens," he said. At the time he warned against trying to impose a dress code on women.

An impoverished former British colony famed for its white-sand beaches, the Gambia has a population of nearly two million, 90 percent of whom are Muslim. Jammeh, 50, a military officer and former wrestler has ruled the country with an iron fist since he seized power in a coup in 1994.    (AFP)

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