Update: The original source of the story, Bloomberg now adds that the face of Michelle Obama was not blurred by the State TV. It quotes several journalists from within Saudi Arabia covering the event, adding that the State TV in fact did not blur the face of the First Lady anyway.
According to Nail al-Jubeir, information director at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, the blurring isn’t real.
“Saudi TV has been showing the total arrival ceremony at the airport and at the Palace and nowhere is anything blurred.”
CNN correspondent Hala Gorani also tweeted out that the Saudi TV in fact did not blur Michelle Obama’s face.
Our Nic Robertson in Riyadh telling me footage he saw on Saudi TV did not show a blurred Michelle Obama. On that note, Good night Twitter!
— Hala Gorani (@HalaGorani) January 27, 2015
U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama might have found it apt to cut short their trip to India to pay homage to former Saudi King Abdullah, who passed away last week. The Saudis, however, don’t seem to be enamored by the presence of the First Lady in their country.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the Saudi state television allegedly blurred out the face of Michelle Obama during a brief televised meeting between the new Saudi King Salman and the President at Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. In fact, the new King reportedly refused to acknowledge the presence of the First Lady and did not say hello or shake hands with her, the report adds. Other media houses from the Middle East, however, showed the unedited footage of the meeting without obscuring the face of Michelle Obama.
Hours after the state TV ran those clips, several of them were posted to Facebook, reports the Washington Times. However, most of the videos were subsequently taken down — probably at the behest of Saudi’s Internet Police. A version of the clip is now up on YouTube. We are unsure, however, how long it would remain there. We have managed to capture a screenshot of the video, just in case. The video is embedded below.
Meanwhile, Michelle Obama also faced criticism from some Arab media outlets for her decision to wear blue on her visit. They added that the First Lady should have worn a black dress, which is more appropriate for a funeral. Also pertinent to note was the fact that Michelle Obama did not wear a head scarf during the time she was out in public. As per Saudi law, all women in the country, even visitors, are required by law to wear a head scarf while in public. This is perhaps why the state TV blurred the First Lady out entirely.
There is also talk about the new Saudi King insulting Barack Obama by breaking protocol. The new King apparently abruptly turned around and walked away from the President in order to go for a prayer. This, however, could have been due to the inexperience of the new King, others allege.
Later in the day, the Saudi King held bilateral talks with other senior staff, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Ambassador Joseph Westphal, and CIA director John Brennan. A statement by the White House later announced the following.
“Obama and Salman sat in gold chairs. A small table in front of them held a spray of white flowers.”
The alleged decision by the Saudi state television to blur the face of Michelle Obama once again raises the question of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. The country has strict laws that restrict freedom of movement of women. In fact, it was only recently that the country gave womenfolk the right to vote. It is also the only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. Now, with even the wife of the world’s most powerful man being targeted, albeit indirectly, the world is certain to take note.
[Image via YouTube]