UK hijab-wearing Queen’s Counsel eyes lead by example


Sultana Tafadar, the UK’s first hijab-wearing criminal lawyer, who also became the first hijab-wearer from the criminal bar to be appointed as Queen’s Counsel, aims to set an example for women by chasing their dreams and achieving their goals.

Tafadar, who has achieved the highest mark of excellence a lawyer can hold in the UK, shared his success story with Anadolu Agency.

As a human rights, international law and criminal justice lawyer specializing in counter-terrorism and national security cases, Tafadar is the second daughter of immigrants who have moved to the UK since the Bangladesh.

There are currently only two hijab-wearing Queen’s Counsel in Britain: Shaheed Fatima, a public barrister, who was appointed in 2016, and criminal barrister Tafadar, who was appointed on March 21 this year. year.

“There is no doubt that most of us face challenges at work. Women tend to face some challenges, minority women tend to face challenges, and women who are visibly Muslim women or wearing the hijab tend to face certain challenges,” Tafadar said.

Read more: Hijab: the most misunderstood piece of fabric

Tafadar, who was admitted to the criminal bar in 2005, was born and raised in Bedfordshire, where she attended a local state school.

Less than 2% of solicitors in Britain become Queen’s Counsel, with most practicing as barristers or barristers in Scotland.

Meanwhile, becoming a Queen’s Counsel is a difficult process in the UK, as lawyers generally need to have at least 15 years’ experience for application. They are applying for review, delivering 12 key cases over the past three years, with 12 judges, 12 barristers and 12 solicitors as adjudicators.

There are 1,928 Queen’s Counsels in Britain, less than 2% of the entire legal profession.

“Not an easy journey”

“It was not an easy journey. And that’s why I’m absolutely thrilled to be in this position. It’s a very long process. It’s a difficult journey,” Tafadar said, referring to his journey. towards success.

She pointed out that if you look at the number of women who have already been appointed as Queen’s Counsel, the numbers “are not that big”.

“So only about 575 women have been appointed as Queen’s Counsel. If you look at people from black minorities or ethnic minorities, at the moment there are about 34 women who have been appointed. And as far as the women who wear the hijab, there are just two of us. And I am the first in the criminal bar,” she said.

Noting that achieving the Excellence rating was a “long and difficult process”, she stressed that “the odds are not always in our favor”.

“And it’s every lawyer’s dream to become a Queen’s Counsel,” she added.

Tafadar said that in her early days, she was the only person in the crime bar to wear the hijab.

“I used to go to court. And most of the time the courts were very quiet, and they didn’t really know who I was and what I was doing there. I was the accused. Most of the time they asked me if I was the interpreter,” she said.

“And so you have these hurdles to overcome, where people make assumptions about who you are. They make assumptions about your abilities, and so it takes time to break those assumptions. So those are the kinds of challenges that I have faced throughout my career, Tafadar added.

France bans activists from wearing the hijab

Speaking on France’s ban last month on supporters of wearing the hijab, Tafadar said “the irony is just quite sad”.

On March 2, France’s highest court upheld a ban on lawyers wearing the hijab and other religious symbols in courtrooms in Lille, northern France. This historic decision sets a precedent for the rest of the country.

Tafadar recalled that in being appointed Queen’s Counsel, “which actually means I am in the top 2% of the legal profession”, she has done a “really good job” throughout her career.

“I wore my hijab when I was appointed to this position. Other lawyers wear wigs, but I don’t have to. And it’s sad because just across the Channel you have a whole different scenario where lawyers are not allowed to go to court with hijab, women are not allowed to realize their ability and their full potential,” she said.

“They’re not allowed to. And it’s not just in the courts, but in all walks of life. They’re not allowed to play sports, they’re not allowed to s engage in public life in the professions. And that really amounts to discriminatory practices. This discrimination based on sex is discrimination based on race is discrimination based on religion. And it is also a denial of freedom of expression,” she noted.

She pointed out that there are several rights that are violated in this case.

“It’s a bit sad for me to be here, I guess, celebrating and enjoying my achievement, but knowing that people across the Channel can’t enjoy the same kinds of opportunities as I do. appreciated.”

Submissions to the UN

Tafadar said they were submitting observations to the UN to highlight the fact that “France has these laws and policies in place, and we want to see what can be done at the international level.”

She said “tackling sports bodies” is another area she wants to raise awareness about.

“Sports bodies have a responsibility to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to participate, whether it’s the World Cup, whether it’s the Olympics, and France will host the Olympics very soon,” he said. she declared.

Noting that the Olympics are meant to represent “tolerance and bringing together different cultures”, Tafadar said that “it makes no sense to refuse to allow women representing a different religion in countries hosting the Olympics to participate. games”.

She questioned the possibility of France being allowed to host these games when they exclude people from participation and “act contrary to the values ​​and ideals of the Olympics”.

“I guess what I want to say to women who face all these challenges to be a woman, to be from a minority background, to visibly practice our faith, is that there will be challenges that you will be undoubtedly face,” she said.

Tafadar said it’s important to persist and not give up, and that “those obstacles can become obstacles that can fall.”

“And I hope to be an example. The fact that I managed to achieve this shows that it can be done. We can see things as being impossible, but it is not beyond our reach. Unfortunately, there are structures in place that prevent us from reaching that full potential, but it’s up to us to carry on and dismantle the structures to achieve our goals.”

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