A new television channel in Egypt, staffed entirely by women wearing a full veil or the niqab, began broadcast operations on Friday, the first day of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan. The new channel - Maria TV - was named after a Coptic Christian woman who was married to the Prophet Mohammad. The Cairo-based television station even presented on-screen anchors in floor-length veils.
The television station will broadcast for six hours a day on the al-Ummah channel, a religious station run by the ultra-orthodox Salafi Islamists, who have emerged as a potent political force since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, according to a Reuters report.
The niqab-clad women of Egypt, who can point to a long and tragic history of social and political oppression, are hoping the new television channel and its activities will help build a new place in Arabic society, for their gender, following Arab Spring. The women also point to discrimination in education and the job market, outside Egypt, because of the niqab.
"I was told that it (TV anchorwoman wearing niqab) won't work because of the body language. Well, the tone of my voice can convey my emotions and reactions," the television station's anchor, Abeer Shahin, a graduate from the American University in Cairo, told Reuters.
The young graduate also said that despite graduating from a prestigious institution, she had to struggle to find a job because of so-called liberals' dislike towards the niqab. She now hopes that her anchoring role at the newly launched television station can help tell people "there are successful women wearing niqab".
"It's unfair to deal with veiled women as a standard religious housewife. No, she can be a doctor, a professor and an engineer," she said.
Scroll down for photographs of the staff members behind Maria TV in Cairo