France burkini ban backlash after photos show woman removing coverings, police issuing fine

In this Aug.4 2016 file photo made from video, Nissrine Samali, 20, gets into the sea wearing a burkini, a wetsuit-like garment that also covers the head, in Marseille, southern France.
In this Aug.4 2016 file photo made from video, Nissrine Samali, 20, gets into the sea wearing a burkini, a wetsuit-like garment that also covers the head, in Marseille, southern France. AP Photo

There is more backlash to so-called burkini bans in towns and cities across France after a photographer captured images of a woman on a beach in Nice removing her head and shoulder coverings under police watch.

READ MORE: French PM supports local bans of burkini swimsuits

The woman in the photos was lying on the beach near Nice’s Promenade des Anglais, the scene of last month’s Bastille Day attack that left 86 people dead, wearing a headscarf and a light blue tunic over a black top and leggings.

The four officers are seen approaching the woman and standing around her as she pulls of the coverings. In one image, an officer is seen writing on a pad of paper.

As the BBC reported, it’s not known whether the woman removed the articles of clothing because she was ordered to or if she did so on her own.

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According to France 24, Nice city hall confirmed police issued the woman a fine. The city enacted a ban on full-body swimsuits with religious connotations, such as the burkini, last week.

The woman didn’t appear to be wearing an actual burkini — a wetsuit-like outfit created by Australian designer Aheda Zenetti.

Aheda Zanetti (L), designer of the Burkini swimsuit, adjusts one of the swimsuits on model Salwa Elrashid at her fashion store in Sydney, August 23, 2016. Jason Reed/Reuters

Zenetti, in an opinion piece the Guardian published Wednesday, said she created the burkini “to give women freedom, not take it away.”

“This negativity that is happening now and what is happening in France makes me so sad. I hope it’s not because of racism,” Zenetti wrote. “I think they have misunderstood a garment that is so positive – it symbolises leisure and happiness and fun and fitness and health and now they are demanding women get off the beach and back into their kitchens?”

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Like other cities that have put such a ban in place, Nice city officials argued the burkini ban is in line with France’s secularist laws and in the name of security.

France 24 reported Nice mayor Christian Estrosi suggesting there’s more than meets the eye and that the photos may be “some kind of manipulation to undermine the city’s officers.”

READ MORE: Cannes bans full-body ‘burkini’ swimsuits from beaches citing security concerns

The photographs from Vantage News were published in Britain’s Daily Mail, the Guardian and other outlets, and the images were also shared widely on social media.

A spokesperson for Best Image agency, which is selling the images, reportedly told France 24 the photographer was “a freelancer working on the story, who happened to be on the beach at the time.”

The anti-burkini policies have had somewhat of an opposing effect, with people coming out in support of the garment. But the photos have prompted the use of the hashtag #WTFFrance and people questioning whether the country actually stands for equality, as its national motto — liberty, equality, fraternity — attests.

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Burkini creator Zenetti, meanwhile, said the bans in France have helped boost sales — not just from Muslim women.

“A lot of the correspondence… was that they are survivors of skin cancer and they’ve always been looking for something like this, saying, ‘Thank god we’ve found someone like this producing such a swimsuit’,” TIME reported Zenetti as saying.

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