Saudi Arabian police responded to a public outcry in response to a video of a young woman who is seen walking around in public in a patterned miniskirt and black crop top. She was arrested on Tuesday, July 18, 2017 by police in the capital of Saudi Arabia. The offense that sparked her arrest was wearing “immodest” clothing that contradicts the conservative dress code instituted across the primarily Islamic country.
The woman was identified as a Saudi Arabian Snapchat model who goes by the name of Khulood. She was questioned earlier by the Saudi Arabian religious police, also known as the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. According to Khulood, she was being accompanied by a muharam, or male relative who acts as a guardian, at all times. She admitted to appearing in the video, but stated she did not post the clips online herself.
According to an announcement made on the official Twitter feed of al-Ekhbariya, the state-run television channel, the case has been referred to a public prosecutor. Her punishment, should she be found guilty, has yet to be decided, but consequences for offenses like this in the past have usually led to floggings.
A video that is similar to the one described has been posted on Twitter. In the original video, the young woman was walking in a village in the Najd region. This area of the desert is north of Riyadh, and is where some of the most traditionally conservative families in Saudi Arabia hail from. The Twitter is captioned in Arabic, which loosely translates to, “One ought not to go out looking like this in a conservative country. Have respect for the law or else your fate is known.”
Khulood’s arrest highlights the power of the conservative forces in Saudi Arabia, which persist despite the efforts of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The 31-year-old is the heir to the throne and has been striving to make changes on behalf of the country’s youth. Over half of the population of Saudi Arabia is under 25 and are active online and on social media. They regularly bypass government censors and use social media to vent about social restrictions. Some of these restrictions include how it is illegal for an unmarried woman to be in the company of a man who is not related to her, and how it is illegal for a woman to drive. Khulood has previously used Snapchat to post a video of her driving in protest of these laws.
As part of the loosening of restrictions, the government recently announced that girls will be able to play sports in public schools and attend physical education classes for the first time. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice is also not allowed to directly arrest people anymore, although they still can investigate offenses and refer them to the regular Saudi police. Bin Salman has been adamant about making these changes as part of his strategy for the future, Vision 2030.
This arrest has also drawn criticism from the youth, with some wondering why Khulood is being held accountable when tourists and foreign dignitaries are not. They pointed to Ivanka and Melania Trump’s recent decision to not wear headscarves when visiting during Donald Trump’s state visit. One Twitter user photoshopped Ivanka’s head onto Khulood’s body with the caption, “Enough already, the situation has been resolved.”
[Featured Image by Kamran Jebreili/AP Images]