The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is facing extensive backlash after imposing a temporary travel ban preventing Tunisian women from entering the country.
According to Tunisian state news agency TAP, the UAE received tip-offs that women traveling on Tunisian passports might commit "terrorist acts" in the Gulf country.
On Friday, the emirate imposed the ban to prevent all fermale Tunisians from entering or connecting through the country's airport terminals.
Following major disruptions and delays at Tunisia's Tunis-Carthage International Airport on Friday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs sought audience with Tunisia's UAE ambassador, who confirmed that the ban existed but was only temporary.
On Sunday, the UAE Ministry of Transport announced on Facebook that all Emirates flights, to and from Tunisia, would be suspended until the airline "can find a suitable solution to operate its flights in accordance with international laws and treaties."
The Arab nation's foreign minister, Anwar Gargash, then tweeted that the new measures were in response to "security information that necessitated taking specific procedures," adding that the UAE “highly value Tunisian women and respect them."
"We contacted our Tunisian brothers about security information that necessitated taking specific procedures," Gargash posted to Twitter. "We should avoid misleading attempts... We highly value Tunisian women and respect them," he added.
Saida Garrach, the Tunisian presidential spokeswoman, confirmed to Shems FM radio, on Monday, that the UAE authorities had expressed concerned about "a possibility of a terrorist attack involving either Tunisian women or women carrying a Tunisian passport."
Tunisia has been a hotbed for jihadi terrorism and was at one point a major source for foreign fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
President Beji Caid Essebsi said the rights of Tunisian women should not be violated "whatever the justification." He has instructed his foreign minister to "work to overcome these problems as quickly as possible to preserve fraternal relations and cooperation" with the UAE.
Imed Daimi, the leader of the Harak Tounes al-Irada party, was less forgiving, responding: "We consider this unjustified and surprising decision an infringement on Tunisia's reputation and for explicitly on Tunisian women.
"The move seems to be political and its aim is to put pressure on Tunisia to fall in line on Arab issues."
Tunisian officials and representatives of Emirates airlines are currently holding talks to resolve the issue, but Tunisian social media users have already started the hashtag #NoWomenNoFly, slamming the measure as being sexist and racist.
Relations between the UAE and Tunisia have been strained since the 2011 Tunisian uprising, sparked by the UAE seemingly attempting to roll back the democratic gains of the Arab Spring revolutions.
In February, the UAE finally lifted visa restrictions on Tunisians that had been imposed two years earlier.