Two Saudi women students verbally and racially abused in Norwich for wearing veils
by David Bale
Police are investigating after two Saudi Arabian students were racially and verbally abused in Norwich for covering their faces with a veil.
The married women from Bowthorpe, who are learning English at the Flying Classrooms language school in Tombland, said they are now too scared to walk in the city.
The school’s director of studies Roni Snell said she was “appalled” at the incident which happened close to Debenham’s in the city centre last month.
She said: “I’m appalled and embarrassed. We have a lot of Saudi people come to study with us. The government funds their study, and a lot of students live with our 250 host families. It’s terrible for a minority of people to abuse these ladies.
“Norwich’s economy benefits greatly from having these students here and we should treat them as guests.”
One of the women, Ameera Al Busafar, 28, said: “We went together to lunch. There was an old man, just before we got to Debenham’s. He pointed a finger at my face and asked me why I was wearing my veil. He said, ‘You are in England now, take it off’.”
Amal Albuliaihi, 26, who has two children aged four and one, said another woman had also shouted the word ‘Bomb’ at her.
She added: “Most people in Norwich are very lovely, but some have a bad idea about us.
“I’m afraid and scared. I think England is the fairest country, but I cannot feel freedom when you meet people like that.”
Her friend Ameera added: “I would like people to respect me and my religion and culture, because I’m a person and I have rights. We are here to learn and study, and are not here to say bad words or do bad behaviour.
“Before I came here I thought England was freedom so I was surprised when it happened. I am now scared to walk in the street.”
Ms Snell said some people needed educating about why Muslim women wore the veil.
She said: “They feel naked when they don’t have it on. They want to keep their beauty to those they show it to – their fathers, husbands and brothers. Otherwise, it’s a private thing. It’s like someone asking us to take your clothes off.”
A Norfolk police spokesman confirmed that a hate crime had been reported to them, and that it happened on either February 20 or 21.
The spokesman said: “Two women were verbally racially abused as they walked through London Street in the city centre.
“We have spoken to the women and are keeping them updated, and a Diversity Liaison Officer has been in contact with the educational establishment the women attend to offer support from ourselves and other agencies, and local officers have been informed of the incident.
“We would encourage anyone who experiences hate crime or a hate incident to contact police as soon as possible so we can begin investigations and offer support immediately.”
Anyone with information about the London Street incident should call Norfolk Police on 101.