Map of MoroccoMorocco has banned the production and sale of burqa full-face Muslim veils, apparently for security reasons, media reports said Tuesday.While there was no official announcement by authorities in the North African nation, the reports said the interior ministry order would take effect this week.“We have taken the step of completely banning the import, manufacture and marketing of this garment in all the cities and towns of the kingdom,” the Le360 news site quoted a high-ranking interior ministry official as saying.It said the measure appeared to be motivated by security concerns, “since bandits have repeatedly used this garment to perpetrate their crimes.”Most women in Morocco, whose King Mohammed VI favours a moderate version of Islam, prefer the hijab headscarf that does not cover the face.The niqab, which leaves the area around the eyes uncovered, is also worn in Salafist circles and in more conservative regions in the north, from where thousands of jihadists have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq.In some commercial districts of Casablanca, the country’s economic capital, interior ministry officials on Monday conducted “awareness-raising campaigns with traders to inform them of this new decision,” the Media 24 website said.In Taroudant in southern Morocco, authorities ordered traders to stop making and selling burqas and to liquidate their stock within 48 hours, the reports said.Retailers in the northern town of Ouislane were said to have received similar instructions.It was unclear if Morocco plans to follow in the footsteps of some European countries such as France and Belgium where it is illegal to wear full veils in public.The reports were met with a muted response in the absence of official confirmation, though Salafists expressed concern that the measure could be expanded to include the niqab.“Is Morocco moving towards banning the niqab that Muslim women have worn for five centuries?” Salafist sheikh Hassan Kettani wrote on Facebook.“If true it would be a disaster,” he added.
Donald Trump. File photoMaziar Hashemi, a naturalized US citizen who lives in Massachusetts, has been told by doctors that his best hope for surviving a rare form of blood cancer is a bone marrow transplant.President Donald Trump’s travel ban could make that impossible.Bone marrow transplants require a close match between donor and recipient. A few months after his diagnosis last September, Hashemi, 60, learned that his brother in Iran, Kamiar Hashemi, was a rare 100-per cent match. The only problem was Kamiar’s nationality.The latest travel ban, issued as a presidential proclamation and implemented on 8 December after months of legal wrangling, bars most travellers to the United States from Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Chad and North Korea, as well as certain government officials from Venezuela. Although the ban allows for case-by-case waivers to be granted, including for medical need, Kamiar Hashemi has so far been denied a visa.Attorneys who regularly deal with visa issues say the waiver process is opaque. Visa applicants aren’t allowed to apply for waivers; they are simply granted or not without explanation. US officials won’t say how they make their decisions or how long they generally take.A US State Department official told Reuters that since the ban took effect, more than 375 waivers have been approved but he declined to say how many total visa applications have been filed from countries covered by the ban. He said he could not comment on the specifics of Hashemi’s case.Kamiar Hashemi began the visa application process soon after learning he was a match for his brother. In February, the 57-year-old small business owner travelled to Armenia to be interviewed at the US embassy there, since there is no embassy in Iran.Later on the day of the interview, Kamiar’s brother back in Massachusetts checked the status of the application on the State Department’s website. A pop-up window announced in bright blue letters: “Refused.”Waivers can later be granted to applicants initially refused for visas, according to the State Department, so Maziar Hashemi continued checking the website each day, but his brother’s status hasn’t changed. He hired an immigration lawyer, Mahsa Khanbabai, hoping she might smooth the way.Transparent as MudThe Trump administration has said travel restrictions are needed to protect the United States from terrorism.Critics have challenged the latest ban, as they did previous versions, saying that it discriminates against Muslims. Six of the eight countries included in the current ban are majority Muslim.Under the current proclamation, waivers can be granted in cases where denying entry would cause undue hardship, when the individual is found not to be a threat and when their entry is in the national interest.The proclamation lists ten examples of situations in which an applicant might be eligible for a waiver. One reason mentioned is an applicant’s need for urgent medical care, something that comes close but doesn’t exactly fit the Hashemis’ situation, since it isn’t Kamiar Hashemi, himself, in urgent need.The State Department has declined to provide details of how waiver decisions are made beyond some general answers to frequently asked questions posted on its website. But a State Department letter obtained by Reuters earlier this month said “there is no waiver form to be completed” and that applicants who fall into the categories outlined in the proclamation “must be considered” for one.“The process is as transparent as mud,” said Hashemi’s attorney Khanbabai. “There are no clear guidelines. It’s difficult to figure out what the process is and who is actually doing the processing.”Nevertheless, Khanbabai submitted a packet of information on the Hashemis’ behalf to the embassy on 19 March, including a letter from Massachusetts General Hospital explaining that a perfect match for a bone marrow transplant is very rare and could provide the only viable treatment for Maziar Hashemi’s Myelodysplastic syndrome.Worried about the ticking clock, Kamiar Hashemi looked into traveling to India to have his bone marrow harvested there and rushed to the United States, but that option was also thwarted.A non-profit organization trying to facilitate the transfer, Be The Match, said it had to pull out after its legal team concluded that Kamiar’s bone marrow couldn’t be exported to the United States because of US sanctions on Iranian exports.“Can you imagine that the cells of an Iranian needed in order to help a US citizen are embargoed?” said Maziar Hashemi, a civil engineer who has lived in the United States since the 1970s.“It is just unfair,” he said in a phone interview. “I cannot wait much longer.”