- By Kavitha SuranaKavitha Surana is a fellow at Foreign Policy. She has reported from Italy, Germany, and Senegal and her stories have been published in the past by the Associated Press, Quartz, Al Jazeera, CNN, GlobalPost and OZY. She holds a joint master’s degree in journalism and European and Mediterranean studies from New York University.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story, citing other published accounts, said that due to security concerns, the Islamic State had in some cases banned full-face coverings in Mosul, Iraq. The article cited reports in Iranian state media, which the Daily Beast has since reported may be inaccurate. Foreign Policy regrets falling for the story and for misidentifying the face veil worn by some women in Iraq as the “burqa,” which is not native to Iraq. The original post is below, but references to the burqa have been removed.
For women living in Islamic State territory, the dress code is usually non-negotiable: Women are required to wear the face veil in public, or face punishment, including execution.
But there seems to be one case where the militant group isn’t so keen on the full-body garment — inside their own security centers.
In a surreal echo of France’s recent agonizing debate over whether or not to ban the “burkini” from its beaches, the Islamic State is now citing security concerns to ban women from wearing a face veil in some cases, Iran’s Al Alam News Agency reports.
According to reports, facial veils have recently been used as a successful disguise. On Sept. 5, Iraqi News reported that a veiled woman used a pistol to kill two Islamic State members standing at a checkpoint in Sharqat, south of Mosul, Iraq.
The irony is rich: Fears of a security risk seem to have pushed the Islamic State into making an exception to one of their own puritanical mandates. Though women will still be forced to wear face veils on the street, they will not be allowed to wear a veil at security and military centers in Mosul, one of the Islamic State’s main cities that is increasingly under threat as Iraq’s military and the U.S.-led coalition close in.
Of course, hand-wringing over the face veil on security grounds is more typically associated with European countries, uneasy about their growing Muslim populations and the uptick in Islamic State-fueled terrorism. While only France and Belgium have prohibited full-face veils, other countries, such as Italy and Switzerland, have allowed local bans, and the debate over proper attire increasingly comes up in Germany.
While the Islamic State may not be shifting towards a head-covering free-for-all, videos and pictures from Manbij, a northern Syrian city liberated last month, give a taste of what post-Islamic State Mosul might look like. The images showed women celebrating their freedom by ripping off their face veils and burning them, as well as smoking and dancing.
Photo credit: JOHN MOORE/Getty Images