Sura Al-Shawk is a Swiss citizen of Iraqi origin (Boris BÃ¼rgisser/Neue LZ)
A year after putting her competitive basketball career on hold over a headscarf ban, a Muslim player is considering taking her case to Switzerlandâ€™s top court.
Sura Al-Shawk, a Swiss citizen of Iraqi origin, appealed her regional leagueâ€™s ban in September 2009 and her case has rumbled on ever since. It is still nowhere near to being resolved, according to her lawyer Daniel Vischer.
The 20-year-old player for national B-league STV Luzern has been unable to take part in games since being told by ProBasket, the northeastern regional basketball association, that she had to remove her headscarf or stop competing.
ProBasket said the sport had to be religiously neutral and wearing a headscarf during play could increase the risk of injury. The association said it was just following International Basketball Federation (Fiba) rules, whereby religious symbols are banned during official games.
Al-Shawk took the case to a Lucerne local court in January â€“ and lost. The court said in a ruling that the ban didnâ€™t breach her rights as a player.
Her lawyer is considering taking an appeal to the Federal Court in order to establish whether â€œher individual rights have been infringedâ€.
But before that can happen, all ProBasketâ€™s necessary internal legal procedures have to be followed.
Earlier this month, Vischer filed a new appeal with ProBasket to allow Al-Shawk to play with her headscarf.
It follows months of the issue going back and forth between ProBasket and Swiss Basketball, the national basketball federation, â€œlike a hot potatoâ€, says Vischer.
It started when Vischerâ€™s appeal with ProBasket last September was rejected. He then filed a motion to dismiss the proceedings for procedural reasons but it was turned down. After the case went to the Lucerne court, it was referred to the national federation, who in turn said it was a regional matter and it landed back in ProBasketâ€™s lap.
â€œWeâ€™re back at the beginning,â€ said Vischer, noting that the next step will be to appeal through ProBasketâ€™s appeal committee, and failing that, the Federal Tribunal.
â€œI canâ€™t go to a state court until all the available avenues have been explored through the basketball associationâ€™s legal instances. I want to take it to court because I donâ€™t have any hope that the basketball association will say yes.â€
ProBasket appears to have finally had enough of the case and wrote on October 12 to the Swiss basketball federation president, Stefan Schibler.
swissinfo.ch obtained a copy of the letter, headed â€œSura Al-Shawk â€“ cooperation and supportâ€, in which ProBasket complains of having to â€œdeal with the headscarf issue for almost 18 months now and it seems there is no end in sightâ€.
ProBasket goes on to say that the Swiss basketball federation is responsible for enforcing Fiba rules among national and regional teams, in collaboration with the national and regional leagues. â€œSwiss Basketball canâ€™t pass responsibility onto its members, who are in fact then left to face the music.â€
It asks Swiss Basketball to take over full responsibility for the case with immediate effect until a mutual solution is found.
The Swiss national league told swissinfo.ch on Thursday that it still was not up to them to take a position on this question as it involved a player in a regional league.
Swiss Basketball director FranÃ§ois Stempfel was reported in the Bund newspaper as saying: â€œSince October 2009, we have pointed out to Mr Vischer more than once that this is a matter that should be dealt with by ProBasket.â€ He also noted that the case had gone through a civil court and been rejected.
Fiba has already said that making an exception would open the floodgates to other requests. But Vischer is unmoved.
â€œI say the right to play with a veil is an individual right of Ms Al-Shawk,â€ Vischer told swissinfo.ch.
â€œThis is very tiring for her. She feels really, really terrible. She wants to play but she canâ€™t. But she hasnâ€™t lost hope.â€