A Saudi Woman Who Chose Not To Wear Traditional Dress Has Been Arrested
She faced a barrage of abuse on social media after going out without a hijab – and now she is possibly facing charges.
This Saudi Arabian resident rose to prominence last week after choosing not to wear traditional dress out to breakfast in Riyadh.
The woman, posting under the name Malak Al Shehri, shared an image of herself without an abaya or hijab in the nation’s capital and it quickly spread across Twitter.
The move led to subsequent online threats from people in the conservative country, although many Twitter users jumped to her defence.
The vitriol she attracted, some calling for capital punishment or jail time, was so forceful that the woman deleted her account shortly afterwards.
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However Riyadh police have confirmed the Saudi national has now been arrested.
She was picked up by officers after an investigation was launched by the religious police, and is being held in a women’s prison, according to Gulf News.
“Police officers have detained a girl who had removed her abaya on al-Tahliya street, implementing a challenge she announced on social media several days ago,” said Colonel Fawaz al-Maiman, as reported by local Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq.
A student who reposted Al Shehri’s original image told the International Business Times that “just basic things are dreams here [in Saudi Arabia]”.
“So many people retweeted it and what she did reached extremists, so she got threats,” the student said. “She deleted her tweets but they didn’t stop, so she deleted her account.”
However in the face of such threats, many swiftly leapt to Al Shehri’s defence:
— فرح العقاد • (@FarahAqqad) November 29, 2016
A brave Saudi lady decided not to wear her Abaya or Hijab out & about. Many praised her, others (males) said she should be killed for it… https://t.co/Swq30GKCcS
— Mikey Kay (@MikeyKayNYC) November 29, 2016
I’m amazed by the courage and the resilience of Saudi women !
— ماجد عبود (@MajedAbboud) November 29, 2016
— Areej Km (@AreejKm) November 29, 2016
The enforcement of Saudi Arabia’s Islamic dress code does vary between regions, but women – even tourists – are typically required to wear an abaya, hijab, or both.
It’s just one of the country’s laws for females, along with a ban on driving, no trying on clothes while shopping, and the need for male permission for certain activities (like travelling abroad).
However many are rebelling against the strict protocols – 15,000 people signed a landmark petition asking the government to abolish the male guardianship law earlier this year.
And as for the driving ban, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal last week posted an open letter titled “It is high time that Saudi women started driving their cars”.
“Preventing a woman from driving a car is today an issue of rights similar to the one that forbade her from receiving an education or having an independent identity,” he wrote.
“Such a ban on driving is fundamentally an infringement on a woman’s rights, particularly as it continues to exist after she had won her right to an education and a salaried employment.”