On his last day on the job, as he handed power to Libya’s newly elected assembly, the Chairman of the country’s National Transitional Council fired a female presenter for not wearing an Islamic headscarf, a local newspaper reported.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil ordered host Sarah Elmesallati to leave the stage late Wednesday evening, halfway through her presentation in the handover ceremony at the country’s National Congress, the Libya Herald reported.
“I had finished the welcoming section of my presentation, and as I was walking back onto the stage to announce the national anthem someone emerged from the middle of where the congressmen were sitting and said: ‘Cover your head! Cover your head!’” Elmesallati told the paper.
Congressman Salah Baadi, an independent member from Misrata, reportedly walked out of the ceremony in protest after Elmesallati didn’t respond to the demands from the crowd.
“After that, an assistant of Jalil came up to me and said, ‘Please, I’m asking you as a daughter, can you please stop.’ I begged him to let me continue, but when I walked back on stage, Jalil caught my eye, pointed at me, and signaled for me to go away, so I did.” she added.
The remainder of the ceremony was reportedly hosted by a young man, with no comments or objections made through his presentation.
In his handover speech, Jalil stated that freedom of expression of expression is important in Libya but Muslim traditions must be respected. However, the mid-ceremony sacking did not go unnoticed and caused a stir between the congressmen.
“Everybody around me condemned this behavior,” said independent candidate from Khoms, Mukhtar Al-Atrash. “But you cannot control people. This is a personal taste; it’s an ugly taste, but a personal one.”