Tunisia’s transport ministry has announced the suspension of all Emirates Airlines flights to and from the North African country.
The move on Sunday came two days after Tunisian women were denied boarding their flights to Dubai on the United Arab Emirates-based carrier.
The transport ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page that it “has decided to suspend flights of Emirates Airlines to and from Tunisia until the company can find a suitable solution to operate its flights in accordance with international laws and treaties”.
According to Tunisia’s state-run news agency, Salem Zeabi, the UAE ambassador to Tunisia, was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday to “provide clarification on the measure banning” Tunisian women from flying to or transiting through the Gulf state’s territory.
Zeabi reportedly said the measure was “temporary and relating to security arrangements”.
Earlier on Sunday, Anwar Gargash, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, also cited security as the reason for the travel restriction.
“We have contacted our Tunisian brothers about security information that necessitated taking specific and circumstantial measures,” Gargash wrote on Twitter.
He also said that the UAE “appreciates and respects Tunisian women”, adding that “we should avoid attempts at interpretation and errors”.
Speaking to Mosaique FM, a local Tunisian radio station, one of the women described her experience at the Tunis-Carthage International Airport on Friday.
“When we arrived here, we found the situation really chaotic. They (Emirates Airlines staff) told me that a Tunisian woman under the age of 30, with a Tunisian passport, can’t get on the Emirates flight,” she said.
“I told them it was just a transit flight – they told me, ‘No, don’t step foot on the plane.'”
Another female would-be passenger said men and male children were allowed to board flights – but not women under 30.
“So the daughter and the mum stay in Tunisia but the husband and son can travel. Is this logical? It’s degrading. It’s degrading to the Tunisian woman, to our nationality – to everything”.
In a statement on Friday, Tunisia’s Ministry of Transport said such actions were “illegal” and “contradictory to the regulations in force in international civil aviation”.