A memo leaked by private pro-opposition newspapers has revealed that the Gambian government is ordering its female employees to cover their hair at work, noting they should use a “head tie and neatly wrap their hair”, without mentioning a reason for the new requirement. Dated January 4, the memo says that an “executive directive has been issued that all female staff within the government ministries, departments and agencies are no longer allowed to expose their hair during official working hours.”
Just last month, Gambian President Yahya Jammeh had declared his country, with a 90 percent Muslim population, an Islamic republic, but he promised that no dress code would be imposed and non-Muslims would be allowed to practice their faith freely. While he defended the move as being in line with its country “religious identity and values”, critics have said it was an attempt at shifting away attention from the poor state of the economy. Jammeh has been President since 1994, when he seized power as a 29-year-old army lieutenant. Human rights activists accuse him of presiding over a brutal regime that has been intolerant of dissent.
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