Women to wear full-body veils

2009-04-15 15:46

Somalia - Hardline Islamists in the southern Somali town of Baidoa have ordered women to wear full body veils and businesses to close for prayers, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.

"We are giving a three-day deadline to all women living in the region to cover their body with thick veils," Sheikh Abdiasis, a local spokesperson for the Shebab group, said at a press conference.

"If they fail to comply with that order, they will be sentenced to 12 hours of imprisonment," he said, complaining that many women in Baidoa were still seen without a "jalabib", the local head-to-toe Islamic garment.

Baidoa, 250 kilometres south of Mogadishu, is officially the seat of Somalia's transitional federal parliament but was conquered by Islamist insurgents in late January.

The Shebab official also said that businesses should close five times a day for prayers and that owners ignoring the order would face five days in jail.

Similar measures have already been enforced in Merka and Kismayo, the two other major southern cities controlled by the Shebab and their hardline allies.

Some parts of the population in Baidoa, one of the country's traditionally more cosmopolitan towns, had been reluctant to comply with the strict interpretation of Sharia, or Islamic law, advocated by the Shebab.