EXPLAINED: ‘Saudi Arabia bans Hijab in Exam Halls’—How far it’s true?


There has been confusion over the news reports that Saudi Arabia has banned Hijab in examination halls. However, the rule is not generic, but specific.

According to the Arabic news published by al-Madina on December 17th, it stated, “Education and Training Evaluation Commission confirmed that it is forbidden to wear the abaya at the time of taking the test”.

It continues, “ETEC noted the need to adhere to wearing the specified uniform at the time of performing the tests in the halls and headquarters of the National Center for Measurement (Qiyas)”.

The Commission stressed that the uniform must be in accordance with the regulations for preserving public decency in examination venues.

The announcement was made by ETEC, not by the Ministry of Education.

ETEC is a governmental body in Saudi Arabia that is in charge of designing, evaluating, assessing, and accrediting training and education systems in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. It conducts tests like University Admission Tests, Language Tests, Educational Tests, International Assessments, Professional Tests, etc.

When a user from Bangladesh asked the ETEC’s support center about the Hijab ban, ETECCare responded in Arabic, “The authority confirms adherence to the dress code that is in accordance with the regulation of preserving public decency in the examination venues, knowing that the examination venues for female students are managed by an all-female team. Good luck”.

While talking to the Milli Chronicle-UK, Director of the International School in Al-Jouf Dr. Abu Ubayd’Allah Anwar Al-Ansari confirmed that, government has not passed any circular to the school management about the ban of Hijab in the examination halls.

He said that the rule is not meant for regular schools, colleges, or universities. The rule is confined to the exams popularly known as ‘Qudraat’ held under ETEC, he added.

When asked about why nobody objected against the rule, which is contrary to the norms of Saudi society. Dr. Al-Ansari said, “Since men are usually not allowed in the female area. There’s no logic behind objecting against the rule”.

Dr. Al-Ansari said that his school, like any other school, allows female staff and students to remove their Abaya before entering the premises. School management provides wardrobes in the female section, and men do not enter the female area, so females take off their abaya comfortably. However, the decision to remove the abaya is entirely up to the individual.

In 2018, Saudi government announced that Abaya would no longer be imposed, however, decent and respectful clothing should be acquired.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman in 2018, said in an interview with CBS, “The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of sharia (Islamic law): that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men”.

“This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover. The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear”.

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