A group of demonstrators gathered in front of the French Embassy in Vienna to voice opposition in a display of solidarity against a recent ban on abayas (long dresses) in French schools.
Organized as a peaceful protest, participants donned long dresses and brandished banners emblazoned with slogans such as “Abaya is our right and identity”, “Do not judge women by their clothing,” and “My clothes, my choice.”
The protest aimed to express strong disagreement with the decision in France that prohibits the wearing of abayas in educational institutions.
The ban, perceived by many as an infringement on personal freedoms, has sparked outrage within and beyond France’s borders.
One of the prominent voices at the demonstration was Baraa Bolat, who has garnered a substantial following through social media activism.
Bolat talked to Anadolu to make clear the purpose behind the protest.
“In my view, and I believe many others share a similar perspective — this decision is degrading to individuals. Such a thing should not happen,” she said. “Women should have the autonomy to decide how they want to dress. Much like me and countless others here, women should be able to choose whether to wear an abaya or a short skirt. This decision should rest with women themselves.”
Bolat said the demonstration is to draw attention to the rarely discussed issue and underscored the protesters’ opposition to the ban’s implementation in France.
“We do not want this ban to spread or be implemented in Austria or other countries. This is an infringement on human rights. Governments should not dictate how people should dress. This is precisely why we have gathered here, raising our voices to proclaim, ‘My abaya, my choice,'” she said.
Bolat also highlighted the concerning rise of Islamophobia in many countries worldwide, singling out France for its anti-Islamic policies in recent years.
“Women should not be denied access to education due to their religious beliefs and clothing choices, be it abayas or hijabs. Such circumstances are far from normal. We are living in the 21st century and these practices should not persist,” said Bolat, adding it is imperative to put an end to Islamophobia.
French Education Minister Gabriel Attal in recent weeks announced that students wearing the traditional overgarments will not be able to attend classes in the new school year.
The controversial move sparked backlash toward the government which has been criticized for targeting Muslims with statements and policies in recent years, including raids on mosques and charitable foundations, and an “anti-separatism” law that slaps wide-ranging restrictions on the Muslim community.