German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives in Saudi Arabia without headscarf bezel

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel
  • As Turbulence injures 27 on Aeroflot flight to Bangkok

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is on a visit to Saudi Arabia, has arrived in the oil-rich kingdom without a headscarf for talks with the King.

Merkel was greeted by King Salman and other officials upon her arrival at the western city of Jeddah on Sunday, The Independent reported.

The 62-year-old like other female Western visitors did not cover her hair upon arrival in the conservative Islamic kingdom.

British Prime Minister Theresa May also avoided the strict dress code for women when she visited the country. May had said that she hoped to be an inspiration to oppressed women in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia enforces a conservative dress code in public, requiring women to wear a full-length robe and cover their hair, in keeping with other restrictive laws including a guardian system limiting women’s movement and a ban on driving.

Foreign visitors have not always followed the protocol, and Merkel also followed the footsteps of May, President Donald Trump’s Democrat rival Hillary Clinton and former First Lady of the US Michelle Obama.

Merkel has called for the burqa to be banned in Germany, saying it was “not acceptable in our county”.

“It should be banned, wherever it is legally possible.”

The German parliament last week voted for a draft law banning women working in the civil service, judiciary and military from wearing full-face veils.

Burqas and niqabs will be prohibited in select professions as part of the legislation, once approved by the Bundesrat state parliament.

The German leader is expected to press Gulf leaders to do more to take in refugees and provide humanitarian relief for those fleeing conflict in Muslim-majority countries.

According to The Independent, Germany has provided refuge to hundreds of thousands of people from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.

She is scheduled to travel to the neighbouring United Arab Emirates after visiting the Saudi Kingdom.

In the meantime, passengers on an Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Thailand were slammed into the ceiling after their aircraft hit a patch of severe turbulence injuring 27 people, some of them suffering fractured bones, witnesses and officials said Monday.

The terrifying ordeal occurred when the plane flew through a pocket of “clean air” turbulence — so-called because there is no cloud warning of its presence — shortly before landing in Bangkok after midnight, the airline said.

Denis Antonyuk, an official at Russia’s embassy in Bangkok said 24 Russian nationals and three Thais were injured.

“Fifteen Russians and two Thais are still in hospital,” he told AFP, adding the rest had been discharged.

Passenger phone footage broadcast by Rossiya 24 state television channel showed a scene of chaos inside the cabin, with injured passengers on the floor, smears of blood on luggage racks and oxygen masks hanging down.

“We were hurled up into the roof of the plane, it was practically impossible to hold on,” a passenger who gave her first name Yevgenia, told Rossiya 24 by phone.

“It felt like the shaking wouldn’t stop, that we would just crash,” she added.

The head of the Russian embassy’s consular department Vladimir Sosnov told RIA Novosti news agency that some of the injured were undergoing operations but he could not give exact numbers.

He added that none of the injuries were life-threatening.

“All the injured were taken to a local hospital with injuries of varying degrees of severity — mainly fractures and contusions. Some need an operation,” the Russian embassy in Bangkok said in a statement.

Officials at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport did not respond to requests for comment.

Thailand has become a very popular destination for sun-seeking Russian tourists with dozens of flights a day from across the country.

Numbers dropped off a few years back when the rouble weakened but they have since bounced back.

Last year just over one million Russians visited the country, most flocking to the southern beach resorts.

Early May is an especially popular time of the year for Russians to head abroad with two public holidays in the first two weeks of the month.

Zee with additional report from Today

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