While women in Saudi Arabia are strictly required by law to wear an abaya robe over their clothes in public, some daring women in the religiously-conservative country are defying the norms and going out of their way to celebrate their freedom.
One such rebel is Mashael Al-Jaloud, a 33-year-old woman whose name is recently trending on social media after she took the daring step of ditching her abaya and headscarf and walking out on the streets of Riyadh in stylish western attire, as reported by the Middle Eastern news outlet, Al Bawaba.
Rocking a wrap-style blazer which she paired with white trousers and a white tank top, Al-Jaloud turned many heads as she stepped out of her house. She wore her highlighted hair down, opted for a full face of makeup, and accessorized with a watch, a black handbag and a pair of sunglasses to make a style statement.
The unusual spectacle soon made its way to social media as people started posting the woman’s pictures and videos on Facebook and Twitter. Per the piece, Al-Jaloud fearlessly walked in shopping malls, attracting a mixed reaction from the masses.
According to the article, Al-Jaloud said that “there are no clear laws. No clear protection” for women in her country, adding that she “might be at risk for walking in public without wearing an abaya”.
— Al Bawaba Node (@_thenode) September 15, 2019
Pictures which made to social media showed women covered from head to toe in their traditional black abayas can also be seen in the background, which makes Al-Jaloud stand out among the rest.
Al-Jaloud’s daring move has prompted a trend on Twitter, which translates to “Saudi Women Without Abaya.” Following the hashtag, many Saudi Arabian men and women have come forward to support the cause for women’s social liberalization and amendments in laws that require women to wear an abaya by force, the outlet said.
The woman’s decision, however, also received vehement criticism from various traditional and religious echelons of the Saudi society, as people called her out for “violating the social, religious and legal rules,” of the Kingdom. According to the piece, some people also asked authorities to take strict action against Al-Jaloud in order to “protect [Saudi] women’s and daughters’ morals.”
Al-Jaloud isn’t the only woman in Saudi Arabia who has refused to wear the abaya and headscarf in public, as the trend is slowly gaining momentum.
Even though the move has not been well-received by the majority of Saudis, women felt encouraged to do so after the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman issued a statement in March this year, saying that it’s not mandatory for women to wear the traditional black abaya.
“Saudi women still have not received their full rights. There are rights stipulated in Islam that they still don’t have,” he told CBS News. “The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of sharia: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” he continued.
“This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover. The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”