Last Updated: Wed Nov 03, 2010 13:12 pm (KSA) 10:12 am (GMT)

Sudan’s trouser journalist sneaks out with niqab

Lubna Ahmed Hussein is Paris to promote her new book
Lubna Ahmed Hussein is Paris to promote her new book

Sudanese journalist Lubna Ahmed Hussein said Tuesday she had donned a full Islamic veil to sneak out of Sudan and travel to France, two months after she was freed from jail for wearing trousers.

On a visit to Paris to promote her new book, Hussein accused Khartoum of trying to block her departure and said she was determined to exercise her right to travel freely as she met Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner.

 They wanted to prevent me from leaving, I resorted to the niqab and managed to leave 
Lubna Ahmed Hussein

"They wanted to prevent me from leaving, I resorted to the niqab and managed to leave," said Hussein, who was jailed for a day in September for violating Sudan's clothing decency, laws by wearing trousers.

"I requested documents to be able to leave, to be able to travel, and this is the only means I found to be able to leave Sudan," she told journalists. "I did not flee Sudan. I am a Sudanese citizen."

Hussein faced a punishment of 40 lashes when she was convicted in July for wearing her green trousers in public.

But a Sudanese court in September ordered her to pay a fine instead, while 10 of the 12 other women arrested with her at a Khartoum restaurant on July 3 were lashed.

After she refused to pay the fine, Hussein served a one-day jail sentence.

“Forty Lashes for a Pair of Trousers”

 I requested documents to be able to leave, to be able to travel, and this is the only means I found to be able to leave Sudan 
Lubna Ahmed Hussein

Hussein arrived in Paris last week to promote her new book "40 coups de fouet pour un pantalon" (Forty Lashes for a Pair of Trousers) released in French. The book is to be translated in English and other languages.

She has been hosted by the French women's rights group "Ni Putes Ni Soumises" (Neither Whores Nor Submissives) which has been outspoken on issues dealing with the repression of Muslim women.

According to the chairwoman of the group, Sihem Habchi, Hussein left Sudan by air on Sept. 18 and flew first to Sana’a in Yemen, before travelling on to Cairo and then Amman before arriving in France.

At each stage of the trip she met with local women's rights groups. She is due to leave France on December 4 to go again to Egypt, where she is to receive an award, and does not intend to leave Sudan for good, Habchi said.

Banned by Sharia

 I told them: 'Show me the text that justifies this repression of women based on their clothing 
Lubna Ahmed Hussein

At her meeting with Kouchner, Hussein took another swipe at the Sudanese judges who told her that wearing trousers was banned by Sharia.

"I told them: 'Show me the text that justifies this repression of women based on their clothing.'

"But no one was able to, because such a text does not exist. It only exists in their heads."

A journalist and women's rights campaigner who also worked for the United Nations, Hussein also held meetings with French ministers and was to be received by former president Jacques Chirac.

Welcoming Hussein to Paris, Kouchner praised her "simple heroism" and courage for standing up to Sudan's laws on decent clothing for women.

"She had the courage to stand up to a law that is tied to Sharia," he added. "This was a very good struggle and a very important one for Arab women, for African women."

Kouchner said that 43,000 women were arrested in 2008 in the Khartoum region by police tasked with enforcing Sudan's laws on indecent clothing for women.

The Paris welcome for Hussein came as France was debating measures to prohibit women from wearing the full Islamic veil, which President Nicolas Sarkozy has said is a symbol of women's subservience.

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