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Rights groups implore IOC president to help get rid of hijab ban

MANCHESTER, England : Sports and human rights organisations have called on International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach to help overturn a ban on French athletes wearing the hijab, saying it undermines celebrations of the first gender-equal Olympics.

While the IOC announced in September that athletes competing at the Paris Games would be permitted to wear hijabs, French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera has barred French athletes from doing so, saying they are bound by the country's strict separation of religion and state.

Amnesty International and 10 other groups signed a May 24th letter to Bach, saying the ban goes against the Olympic Charter - and is part of a greater issue around discrimination against female Muslim athletes at all levels of sport in France.

"This important step would ensure the Olympics and Paralympics leave a true legacy towards gender equality in France by ensuring all women and girls can have their right to non-discrimination respected and protected, and their right to participate in sports guaranteed," the letter said.

"The country's discrimination against women and girls wearing the hijab is particularly concerning given the IOC's celebration of Paris 2024 as the first 'Gender Equal Olympics.'"

Paris marks the first Olympics with an equal number of male and female athletes.

The hijab bans have resulted in discrimination, humiliation and trauma against Muslim athletes in France, some of whom have left the country to seek opportunities elsewhere, the letter said. Reuters has contacted the IOC for comment.

"Shouldn't the French team represent the whole society in its diversity?," French basketball player Helene Ba, the co-founder of Basket pour Toutes (Basketball for All), said in a video