Miniskirt woman released by Saudi police

  • 20/07/2017

A woman detained in Saudi Arabia after videos were published of her visiting a historical site wearing a miniskirt has been released without charge, the Ministry of Culture and Information says.

Saudi police released the woman on Tuesday evening after she was questioned for a few hours and the case was then closed, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.

She was released "after she told investigators that a film posted on social media, showing her in a miniskirt as she walked in a historic Saudi village, was published without her knowledge", it added.

The images of the woman wearing a miniskirt and a crop top were shared on a Snapchat account entitled Model Kholoud, creating a furore in the conservative country.

Saudi law obliges women to cover their hair and bodies, in line with traditional customs.

Saudi official media had said she was taken into custody in al-Shakraa province, north-west of the capital Riyadh.

The ministry statement did not confirm the identity of the woman.

Her arrest sparked online debate over double standards between what men and women are allowed to wear.

Saudi Arabia is ranked the fourth-worst nation in the world for gender parity by the World Economic Forum.

The staunch ally of the US doesn't allow women to drive, and only recently allowed them to vote and access education and healthcare without consent from a male guardian.

Outrage online over arrest

After Saudi police arrested her, many Saudis sprang to her defence on social media complaining that different standards were applied to men and foreign women.

Many Twitter users zeroed in on a visit to the kingdom last month by President Donald Trump whose wife Melania and daughter Ivanka were widely praised by Saudi commentators for their elegance despite eschewing veils and wearing stylish dresses.

The Saudi woman, identified only as Model Khulood, appeared on a Snapchat clip strolling through an empty mudbrick village, wearing a short skirt and a top exposing her midriff.

But after her detention was reported by state media, many people in the smart phone-obsessed kingdom rushed to her defence, arguing that no such scorn was piled on visiting foreign women nor Saudi men.

"If she were a foreigner, they would sing about the beauty of her waist and the enchantment of her eyes. But because she is Saudi they are calling for her arrest," Fatima al-Issa wrote on her Twitter page.

With many referring to the Trump visit, one amateur artist laboured the point of double standards by superimposing Ivanka's face on Model Khulood.

In a country in which debate is strictly policed by state decree and cultural tradition and gender mixing is often illegal, social media is one of the few outlets for young Saudis to interact and comment on current affairs.

Despite the outrage over the video, Saudis have easy access to racy imagery through the internet and satellite channels based in the kingdom which broadcast Western films.

When steamy tabloid pictures showed wealthy Saudi businessman Hasan al Jameel kissing American pop icon Rihanna in a pool last month, many Saudi men whooped in praise.

"Why is no one asking for his trial?" user Noura Suliman asked querulously on Wednesday.

"Everyone's acting like a saint over just a skirt, while Hassan al-Jameel lay in Rihanna's arms and no one said a thing. Everyone praises him for that while Saudi women are being insulted," said Shajan al-Qahtani.

Others were unmoved, however, arguing that the kingdom has its own particular social codes like any other country.

"We should respect the laws of the country," a Saudi man named Faisal shot back.

"In France, the niqab is banned and women are fined if they wear it. In Saudi Arabia, wearing robes and modest clothing is part of the kingdom's laws," tweeted one activist.

Reuters / Newshub.