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The New Arab

Tunisian Olympic gold medallist slams 'insulting' UAE travel ban on Tunisian women

The Emirates' decision has caused an outcry in Tunisia [Getty]

Date of publication: 31 December, 2017

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A Tunisian Olympic gold medallist has slammed the UAE over its recent controversial travel ban of Tunisian women.

A Tunisian Olympic gold medallist has slammed the UAE over its recent controversial travel ban of Tunisian women, which caused a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.

Long distance runner Habiba Ghribi told The New Arab on Saturday that the "shocking" ban was an insult to the dignity of Tunisian women.

"The decision has angered me because it has violated the dignity of Tunisian women, who I think are the strongest and [most] influential Arab women," Ghribi said.

"Whatever the reasons are behind the move, I stand in solidarity with Tunisian women," the steeplechase runner said.

"It was a shocking and incomprehensible move, which has violated the dignity of Arab women more than Tunisian ones. I am interested to know the motives behind it," she added.

Ghribi won the silver medal in the 3,000 metres steeplechase at the 2012 London Olympic games. She was later awarded the gold after the Russian gold medalist was disqualified for doping.

Emirates airline barred Tunisian women from boarding its flights last week over security concerns, prompting Tunis to respond by suspending the Dubai-based carrier's operations in the air and on the ground.

The Emirates' decision has caused an outcry in Tunisia.

The UAE men's handball team cut short a trip to Tunisia on Friday after Tunisian sporting authorities appointed female referees for a game in solidarity with women.

Handball federation secretary general Amir Saadi said women had been appointed as referees for a friendly match between the two national teams.

But, according to Saadi, the UAE team announced it was forfeiting that game and another scheduled for Saturday for "technical reasons", citing the absence of ten players and injuries of four others.

They had said "there was no link with political affairs", he added.

Tunisian social media users have slammed the travel measures against women from their country as "discriminatory" and "humiliating".

Political analyst Hamza Meddeb said the tensions between Tunisia and the UAE were linked in part to Tunisia not choosing sides in the Gulf region's worst crisis in years.

The UAE was among a group of countries - led by Saudi Arabia - to sever ties with Qatar in June over its alleged support for Islamist extremism and close ties to Iran. Doha has denied all charges.

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