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This Press Release may be read online at: http://www.unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-18-11-2006-00.htm

Press Release: 18th November 2006, 5th Maghar, Samvat 538 Nanakshahi

French Turban Campaign Continues in Earnest as More Sikh Students Face Expulsion

Disciplinary Hearing Next week for One of the French Sikh Schoolboys who Refused to Remove his Turban

The UNITED SIKHS legal team met in London last week to discuss its strategy for appealing French Turban ban cases to the International courts

Paris, France: Jasmeet Singh, one of four French-Sikh schoolboys excluded from school in September for refusing to remove their Turbans, will face a disciplinary hearing on Tuesday 21st November. He will be represented by Kudrat Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS-France and a representative of the French Turban Action Committee will also attend the hearing. Jasmeet Singh, along with Manjinder Singh, Maha Singh and Hardeep Singh, all between 16 and 17 years of age, were told when schools re-opened in September that they could not attend their schools while wearing their turbans. Younger French Sikh school children had also been asked to remove their rimals (coverings for their top knots) but after UNITED SIKHS intervened on their behalf, the schools accommodated them.

Jasmeet Singh, Maha Singh and Manjinder Singh were refused entry from their vocational schools in September this year because they refused to remove their turbans. UNITED SIKHS and the French Turban Action Committee has since being trying to find alternative schools for them. If alternative schools are not found, they will be without any education as is Gurinder Singh, who was expelled last year from his vocational school. In 2004, when the law banning religious signs came into force, three French Sikh schoolboys, Jasvir Singh, Ranjit Singh and Bikramjit Singh, were expelled from school and had to do home-study before a private Catholic school accommodated them a year later. However the private Catholic school in question is not a vocational school and is unable to accommodate Gurinder Singh, Jasmeet Singh, Maha Singh and Manjinder Singh.

“These recent cases show that the problem for Sikhs in France is far from over. We regularly hear of French-Sikh students who are asked to remove their head coverings in school and our fight to facilitate these children’s right to study in mainstream schools while practising their religion is far from over”, said Kudrat Singh, Director of UNITED SIKHS-France.

“Now more than ever we ask the international community to continue to support the Right to Turban campaign. We are continuing our legal campaign for justice,” he added.

UNITED SIKHS has begun legal actions on behalf of all the expelled French Sikh schoolboys and their case is due to be heard in the Conseil D’etat, the highest French court, in the near future. Legal actions are also ongoing to challenge the French government’s refusal to issue passports, driver’s licence and residence cards to Sikhs unless they remove their Turban for their ID photo. The Conseil D’etat heard last Wednesday the final appeal filed by UNITED SIKHS and Shingara Mann Singh against a circular by the French transport ministry which requires a Sikh to remove his Turban for his driver’s licence photo.

The UNITED SIKHS legal team in London, Judge Mota Singh QC, Rabinder Singh QC, Stephen Grosz, Mejindarpal Kaur and Ryan Singh, met on Tuesday to discuss a strategy for appealing the cases in the international courts.”

“It is necessary to appeal these cases to the international courts as if left unchecked the French law, which undermines religious freedom, will have a domino effect on religious rights globally,” said Mejindarpal Kaur, UNITED SIKHS director for International Civil and Human Rights Advocacy.

“We need to raise funds to fund litigation and to create awareness so that rights of minority communities are not trampled upon,” she added.

Legal action in the French courts has thus far been funded jointly by UNITED SIKHS and the French Turban Action Committee. To fund litigation in the international courts, UNITED SIKHS will be launching a fundraising campaign so that no stone is left unturned for the right to manifest one’s religion.

To donate for the Right To Turban campaign, please click here http://www.unitedsikhs.org/donate/

To read a previous Press Release on UNITED SIKHS' advocacy for Sikh religious rights in France, please click http://unitedsikhs.org/PressReleases/PRSRLS-10-04-2006-00.htm

To read more about the Right To Turban campaign go to www.unitedsikhs.org/rtt

Issued by:
Meerat Kaur
Executive Director

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