Police in Bulgaria have issued 20 penalties in nine months to people breaking the law against wearing clothing that covers or hides the face – or, as it is commonly known, the burqa ban.
All the fines were issued in within the Interior Ministry district of Pazardzhik, between October 2016 and May 2017.
Responding to local media inquiries, the Interior Ministry was unable to say whether the fines had been paid because fines are credited to the general budget of the ministry while unpaid sums are handed over for collection by the National Revenue Agency.
The “burqa ban” was approved by the 2014/17 National Assembly, having been tabled by the nationalist Patriotic Front coalition. The law forbids citizens of Bulgaria and foreigners in Bulgaria wearing garments in public that partially or completely hides their faces.
The ban applies in various public places, such as the offices of official institutions, places of public recreation, culture and sports. It does not apply to recognised houses of worship, private homes, or to items worn for health reasons, as part of sporting events or to actors playing roles.
The penalty for a first offence is 200 leva (about 100 euro), and 1500 leva for second and further offences.
When they proposed the law, the Patriotic Front – now part of the United Patriots, the minority partner in the May 2017 coalition government – said that it would limit the influence of “certain external factors, foreign states, foundations and other organisations” that cause division in Bulgarian society and that impose clothing that is not traditional for Bulgarian society.
The Patriotic Front said that burqas were associated with shows of radicalism, and the Bulgarian legislation would contribute to “guarding national sovereignty” from “assimilative and aggressive assaults”.
(Photo: Hans Braxmeier)