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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 April 2007, 19:11 GMT 20:11 UK
Egypt anchorwomen battle for hijab
By Ranyah Sabry
BBC News, Cairo

Ghada El Tawil
Ghada insists she has no political agenda by wanting to wear the veil
The last four years in the lives of TV presenters Hala El Malki and Ghada El Tawil have been a continuous struggle brought about by their employers' refusal to implement two court verdicts.

It all started in 2002 when the two presenters decided to wear the hijab head covering worn by many Muslim women.

But their employers objected and they were excluded from appearing on the state-run TV station where they work.

Believing that they had a right to appear on the screen the TV anchors took their case to the civil court. The court ruled in their favour and ordered they be returned to the screen in 2003.

When the state TV station refused to comply with the ruling, the two presenters went to the state court which also ruled in their favour in 2005. But again the station did not comply.

But last month, when they tried to force the station to abide by the earlier rulings, they were rebuffed, with the court saying it had already dealt with the case.

Dress code

The two anchorwomen now want to make their case an international affair, and are seeking out other jurisdictions through which they can fight for their rights.

"We will go as far as we have to, it is our right to wear the veil," Ghada El Tawil told the BBC.

Egyptian women in Cairo
Many Egyptian women choose to wear the veil in public
She says some 75% of Muslim women in Egypt wear the hijab and so the presenters are not trying to do anything out of the ordinary and there is certainly no political agenda.

"If I was a doctor or a university professor there would be no problem about me wearing a hijab on television, so why can't I do it reading the news," she said.

Human rights organisations say the presenters have a right to wear the veil in exercise of their personal freedom.

But there is some opposition on the streets of Cairo about whether veiled anchorwomen would be a good thing on Egyptian TV.

"I don't like to see a presenter with a veil. Actually I hate to see my society going this direction. It is not Egypt, it is not my country, it is not my Egypt," said one Cairo resident.

"This is a dress code they should stick to. If these anchors insist on the veil then she has to choose another job. Taking it to the international court will not solve anything," said another.

During the past four years more than 30 female anchors working in state TV are thought to have chosen the veil at the expense of their jobs.

But if these two pioneers, Ms Malki and Ms Tawil, eventually return to the screen with their hijabs, the state broadcaster could find many others wanting to follow their example.

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