Police in the Bulgarian town of Pazardzhik issued on May 16 the first fine for wearing a burqa, four days after the municipal ban on the burqa in public places came into effect.
The municipality of Pazardzhik was the first in Bulgaria to enact a ban on the burqa and other garments covering the face. A nationalist minority party is campaigning for a nationwide ban, tabling legislation in municipalities and in the National Assembly.
A statement by local police said that a police patrol saw the woman in the town’s Iztok neighbourhood, walking along the road from a grocery store.
In addition to wearing a burqa, she also was found to not be carrying an identity document and was taken to a police station. A check of her identity established that she had been resident in the neighbourhood for the past 30 years.
Two penalty documents were issued, one for wearing the burqa and the other for not carrying ID. The fine for not carrying an ID is 50 leva (about 25 euro). The fine for wearing a burqa or similar garment is 300 leva. Failure to pay the fines will result in suspension of social benefits.
The Pazardzhik ban prohibits the wearing of burqas in public and government buildings and other public places including streets, parks, gardens, restaurants, shops and public transport. The ban does not apply to items worn for reasons of health or professional necessity or temporarily for sports, cultural or similar events. It also does not apply to private homes or official houses of worship.
While 300 leva is the penalty for a first offence, second and further offences carry a penalty of 1000 leva.
The city council of Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s second-largest city, is due to debate and vote on a burqa ban on May 17. A vote is expected in Bourgas, the second-largest Black Sea city, is expected on May 27.
(Photo: Hans Braxmeier)