Bosnian soldier sues Defense Ministry for not allowing her to wear hijab on duty

Source: Radio Slobodna Evropa

Emela Mujanovic, a member of Bosnia’s Armed Forces, sued Bosnia’s Defence Ministry arguing that she is being discriminated against after she was not allowed to wear her hijab, Radio Free Europe reported.

Mujanovic is a professional soldier who has been wearing a hijab or headscarf for nine years. Due to her decision to cover her head under Islamic regulations, she was first suspended and then relocated to a single-ethnicity barracks in Ustikolina, in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina, as Radio Free Europe reported last year.

She sued the Defence Ministry on grounds of discrimination in March this year.

Her lawyer, Emir Kovacevic, told Radio Free Europe that, regardless of the fact that she is a member of the Armed Forces, she has the possibility to initiate a civil case before the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina if her human rights were breached.

“We sued them on two grounds. The first ground is the violation of the right to freedom of religion, which is guaranteed by the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Convention on Human Rights. The second is discrimination, also based on religion,” he explained.

According to the rules on uniforms in Bosnia’s Armed Forces, “military personnel are not allowed to wear certain parts of military uniforms in combination with civilian clothes and / or equipment, as well as combinations of parts of different sets of military uniforms.”

“It is not allowed to arbitrarily change the appearance, size, cut and composition of a military uniform. Religious insignia can be worn with the uniform in such a way that it is not visible,” the rulebook that was adopted in 2017 says.

Mujanovic started working in the Armed Forces in 2008 in the barracks in Zenica. After that, she went to school in Greece, where she remained until 2011, when she decided to start wearing a headscarf.

When she returned to the barracks in Pazaric, near Sarajevo, her superiors suggested to her that she should remove her headscarf.

She refused to do so and has first received a disciplinary note and was then relocated to a Bosniak-only barracks.

According to Radio Free Europe, the Defence Ministry has still not replied to any inquiries about the case.

Her lawyer said that the Armed Forces argue that, by wearing the headscarf, Mujanovic breached the rules on uniforms.

“With this lawsuit, we are challenging the rulebook that restricts Muslim women from wearing the hijab,” he explained, arguing that this restriction is not in accordance with the European Convention.

According to available data, almost 270 women in the Armed Forces declare themselves as Bosniaks. Among them are a significant number of those who practice their religion regularly.