Pacific Woman Thrown Off Bus For Wearing Veil


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
The Consulate-General of Saudi Arabia has written to the New Zealand Government to complain after a Saudi Arabian student was told she couldn’t board an Auckland bus because of her Muslim veil.

The letter from the Saudi consulate to the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry says student Gawheer Saud Al Thaubity was left in tears after the incident.

"As she stepped on to the crowded bus, the driver shouted, 'Out!' She asked why and was told, `Because you cover your face'. He insisted that she get off the bus, then closed the door and drove off," the letter says.

Two days earlier another driver from the same company, NZ Bus, told another woman to remove her veil.
The second woman’s husband, Dr Sameer Aljabri, told The Dominion Post the bus driver told his wife, "I do not want you on my bus but I have to serve you. Take off your face cover because I need to see your face."

Dr Aljabri, who works at the Saudi Arabia Cultural Mission in Auckland, said the incident had affected his opinion of New Zealand and he intends to lodge an official complaint with the Human Rights Commission.

However, both bus drivers suffer from “maskophobia” and weren’t discriminating on religious or cultural grounds, NZ Bus general manager Jon Calder says, and neither has been dismissed.

Mr Calder said both drivers had been sent on counselling programmes, and NZ Bus has no policy on clothing. Both men have received final warnings and will be monitored.

Labour ethnic affairs associate spokesman Ashraf Choudhary said he has spoken to the Saudi consul-general, who warned that Saudi students were worth around $300 million a year to the New Zealand economy and similar incidents could discourage them travelling here to study.

A Human Rights Commission spokesman said the incidents appeared to amount to discrimination on religious grounds