France: Women athletes, activists protest anti-hijab bill with football match
Hijab-wearing female footballers played a football match outside in Paris on Wednesday, to protest a bill banning the wearing of the hijab and other religious symbols in competitive sports.
The match, which took place outside the National Assembly, was organised by the Les Hijabeuses, a collective of veiled female athletes campaigning for inclusivity in French football.
The collective had originally planned for a larger-scale protest match to take place Tuesday, to coincide with the day the sports bill was making its way through parliament.
But French police initially banned the demonstration, on the grounds that the protest would cause "public order disturbances".
"It is feared that this demonstration will attract, in addition to those who support it, people hostile to the cause," Paris’s police department said in a statement posted to Twitter.
The collective contested the ban, which they labelled "arbitrary, unfair and completely disproportionate".
Several activists and organisations, including Amnesty International France, rallied behind the female collective and called the ban "abusive and discriminatory", as well being against international law, in a post published on Instagram.
"France cannot pass policies that discriminate against people on the grounds of their religion, beliefs or nationality," they said.
The police overturned the ban on Wednesday.
Earlier this month, French senators voted in favour of an amendment to ban the wearing of “conspicuous religious symbols” in sports competitions.
The bill is due to go through its final readings on 16 February.
The French football federation (FFF) prohibits women from wearing the hijab in official club matches, as well as during international games. It is a rule that is out of step with football’s international governing body FIFA, which lifted its hijab ban in 2014.