Women immediately became suspects of terrorism following the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) ban on women boarding flights to Tunisia, according to Reuters. In an interview with ShemsFM, Tunisian presidency advisor Saida Garrach explained how the country feared possible attacks from Tunisian women.
“We are fighting terrorism together with the United Arab Emirates and we are coordinating to solve this problem. But we cannot accept the way Tunisian women are treated and don’t accept what has happened to Tunisian women at airports,” Garrach said.
The Tunisian Ministry of Transport eventually stopped all UAE Tunisia flights following the airline’s ban.
“The Ministry of Transport decides to suspend the flights of the airline “Emirates Airlines,” to and from the Tunisian airports, until the latter finds the appropriate solution and operates in accordance with the regulations and international conventions,” a press release states.
UAE officials instituted the temporary ban due to serious security information they received regarding alleged attacks by Tunisian passport-carrying women from areas of conflict in Syria and Iraq, according to the Washington Post.
“I came here and found chaos after they’re saying Tunisian women under the age of 30 cannot board Emirate planes,” a woman passenger said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
This conflict follows Tunisia’s attempt to repair its damaged ties with the UAE after the Islamic Al-Nahda party came into power, the Guardian reports. Tunisia set off the Arab Spring revolts a few years ago, which forced President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali from power. These uprisings unnerved the UAE and made it realize Tunisia’s influence on the Middle East.
The UAE additionally opposes the “Tunisia model,” which includes all non-violent sides of the political spectrum, even Islamists supporting pluralism and democratic principles, Lobe Log reports.
The Tunisian presidency spokesman believed this was not a diplomatic crisis and defended the UAE government because it protected its airlines. Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi asked for the respect of Tunisian women’s rights, regardless of the justifications, and instructed Foreign Minister Khemaies Jhinaoui to solve these problems quickly to preserve cooperation with the Emiratis, according to ENCA.
Arabi 21 recently received a confidential document from the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation with Abu Dhabi’s plan for handling this crisis, Middle East Monitor reports. This document includes eight recommendations for handling the crisis – the eighth specifically targets Tunisian women.
“It would be possible to mobilise media associations and websites inside Tunisia in order to turn the discussion against Al-Nahda, for being responsible for the large number of IS (Daesh) women who ended up giving the Tunisian woman a bad name and distorting their progressive image in people’s minds,” the document reads
This ban sparked protests among different groups. A Tunisian pilot working with Japanese airline Akrem Nouichi boycotted UAE flights because he considers the ban absurd and unacceptable, according to Shems FM. Women also protested outside the UAE Embassy in Tunis on Friday, December 22nd, calling the decision discriminatory and humiliating, ABC News reports.
In addition, the Tunisia federation said the UAE men’s handball team forfeited its trip to Tunisia because of its female referees, even though the team announced players’ absences and injuries were the cause of the forfeiture, according to The New Arab.
Although the UAE claims protection against attacks and denies discrimination against Tunisian women, Tunisians have unfairly lost freedom as a result of the airline ban. Furthermore, tensions between the UAE and Tunisia will only worsen if leaders do not formulate a sufficient solution.
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