Expatica news

Woman at centre of racistdeath threats saga resigns

3 March 2005

BRUSSELS – The Muslim woman at the heart of a death threat scandal in Flanders has resigned.

Naima Amzil, 31, handed in her notice after a seventh death threat with bullets was sent by post to her employer Rik Vannieuwenhuyse.

Vannieuwenhuyse, who runs the Remmery firm in Ledegem, has been repeatedly threatened by right wing extremist group Nieuw Vrij Vlaanderen for allowing Amzil to wear her headscarf to work.

But despite her employer’s refusal to bow to racist demands, Amzil said this week that the pressure had become too much to bear.

Visibly shaken, she told reporters, “it was really becoming too difficult. I can no longer stand this situation that has been continuing for three months.”

Vannieuwenhuyse said later on television, however, that the resignation would only be temporary.

He has been widely praised for his defiant handling of the situation and was invited to the royal palace by King Albert II in January.

The first threatening letter arrived in his post box on 24 November 2004.

He was told that his life and the lives of his family were in danger if he continued to allow Amzil to wear a Muslim headscarf to work.

Although receiving the full support of her employer, Amzil decided voluntarily to remove her headscarf in an effort to calm things down.

But her efforts were thwarted when new letters arrived demanding that she be sacked.

Vannieuwenhuyse was put under police protection and has since risen to become a symbol of resistance to extremism in Flanders.

“He is still supporting me and will always but I just can’t go on,” said Amzil.

“It was becoming too difficult and I was more and more afraid for him and his family, especially after the last two letters,” she added.

The latest letters to the Remmery firm had contained bullets.

Vannieuwenhuyse’s actions prompted spontaneous support from Flemish employers union, Unizo, which organised a petition on his behalf and gathered 26,000 signatures.

Unizo said that it regretted Amzil’s decision but understood it.

The Greens in the Belgian parliament demanded answers from Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx on the progress of the enquiry into who was behind the death threats.

The Ecolo party declared itself “revolted” by the treatment of Amzil and her employer.

The humanist cdH party also called for more government action.

The threats against them were “inhuman and intolerable” said cdH president Joelle Milquet.

Amzil said she now wanted to spend some more time with her family and recover from her ordeal.

“It won’t be easy. But my husband is working and we’ll cope,” she said.

[Copyright Expatica 2005]

Subject: Belgian news