Sri Lanka has announced a ban on all face covering clothing following the Easter terror attacks which killed over 250 people.
The attacks took place at three churches in Kochchikade, Negombo and Batticaloa, as well as three hotels in Colombo on April 21, resulting in the deadliest violence the country has seen since the civil war ended in 2009.
The death toll was reported to have reached 359, but it has since been revised by the Sri Lankan Health Ministry to 253, CNN report.
In the days following the attack, an MP called for a ban on face coverings, citing the terrorists’ use of them to conceal their identities and escape authorities.
Yesterday, the country’s president, Maithripala Sirisena, used an emergency law to impose the restriction, meaning any form of face covering, including veils and burkas, will be banned in public.
The new decree comes into place today (April 29). It means Muslim women in Sri Lanka will no longer be able to wear veils covering their faces.
The niqab, which covers all but the eyes, and the burka, which includes a veil across the eye opening, were not specifically mentioned, but it seems the move is targeting those garments.
However, the law does not prevent women wearing the chador or the hijab, which leave the face exposed but cover the hair and neck.
According to the BBC, the president’s office explained that any face garment which ‘hinders identification’ will be banned to ensure national security.
Sri Lanka has a population of 21 million people, and just under 10 per cent are Muslim, though only a small number of women are thought to wear the face-covering niqab or the burka.
The country is still on high alert following the attacks, and over the weekend thousands of Sri Lankan troops stood guard on the streets, protecting churches and mosques.
Sunday services were cancelled across the country as a precaution, but the Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith, held a televised mass.
Many worshippers also gathered outside St Anthony’s Shrine in Colombo, the site of one of the deadliest bombings.
The Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks, though it has not given any evidence or details. The BBC report the number of people arrested has risen to 150, but Sri Lankan authorities are still looking for around 140 followers of the jihadist group.
For those in the UK worried about friends and relatives in Sri Lanka, a hotline has been set up by the high commission in London, which you can call on 07917 382486.
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.