Girl’s post in mini draws ire

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

A young Saudi woman sparked a sen­sa­tion on­line over the week­end by post­ing a video of her­self in a miniskirt and crop top walk­ing around in pub­lic, with some Saudis call­ing for her ar­rest and oth­ers rush­ing to her de­fense. State-linked news web­sites re­ported yes­ter­day that of­fi­cials in the deeply con­ser­va­tive Mus­lim coun­try are look­ing into tak­ing pos­si­ble ac­tion against the woman, who vi­o­lated the king­dom’s rules of dress. Women in Saudi Ara­bia must wear long, loose robes known as abayas in pub­lic. Most also cover their hair and face with a black veil, though ex­cep­tions are made for vis­it­ing dig­ni­taries.

The video, first shared on Snapchat, shows her walk­ing around an empty his­toric fort in Usha­iager, a vil­lage north of the cap­i­tal, Riyadh, in the desert re­gion of Najd, where many of Saudi Ara­bia’s most con­ser­va­tive tribes and fam­i­lies are from. Com­pet­ing Twit­ter hash­tags emerged, with one de­mand­ing the woman’s ar­rest and an­other as­sert­ing that free­dom of dress should not be a crime. Ibrahim Al-Mu­nayif, a Saudi writer with more than 41,000 fol­low­ers on Twit­ter, wrote on his of­fi­cial ac­count that al­low­ing peo­ple to dis­obey the law leads to chaos. “Just like we call on peo­ple to re­spect the laws of coun­tries they travel to, peo­ple must also re­spect the laws of this coun­try,” he wrote.

Oth­ers de­fended her by post­ing images from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s visit to Saudi Ara­bia in May, in which First Lady Me­la­nia Trump and his daugh­ter Ivanka, though mod­estly dressed in higher neck­lines and longer sleeves, shunned wear­ing a head cover or the abaya. Ivanka Trump’s blonde tresses and at­tire sparked a Twit­ter hash­tag dur­ing the pres­i­dent’s visit, with Saudi males com­ment­ing on her looks and re­fer­ring to the pres­i­dent as Abu Ivanka, mean­ing Ivanka’s father.

One Twit­ter user, whose post was shared more than 1,700 times, su­per­im­posed an im­age of Ivanka’s face on the young Saudi woman’s body, writ­ing: “Enough al­ready, the sit­u­a­tion has been solved.” Oth­ers wrote that had the woman been a for­eigner, peo­ple would be talk­ing about her beauty, but be­cause she is Saudi, they are call­ing for ar­rest.

The Saudi Okaz news web­site re­ported that of­fi­cials in Usha­iager called on the re­gion’s gov­er­nor and po­lice to take ac­tions against the woman in re­sponse to the video, without elab­o­rat­ing fur­ther.

Saudi news web­site Sabq re­ported that the king­dom’s moral­ity po­lice had cor­re­sponded with other agen­cies to in­ves­ti­gate fur­ther af­ter the video was brought to their at­ten­tion. So­cial me­dia is wildly pop­u­lar in Saudi Ara­bia as a space to vent frus­tra­tions and gauge pub­lic opin­ion. With more than half of the pop­u­la­tion of Saudi Ara­bia un­der 25-year­sold, the coun­try’s 30-year-old heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, has pushed for greater open­ings for en­ter­tain­ment in part to ap­pease the coun­try’s youth, but strict gen­der seg­re­ga­tion rules and other re­stric­tions on women’s move­ment re­main in place. — AP

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