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Saudi authorities arrest Snapchat model who wore miniskirt at historic site

The snaps have sparked heated debate on gender rights in Saudi Arabia [Twitter]

Date of publication: 18 July, 2017

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Saudi authorities have arrested woman who was photographed wearing a miniskirt and crop top through a historic site over the weekend.
Saudi police said on Tuesday they were questioning a woman who appeared in an online video in a miniskirt and crop top walking through a historic site in the ultraconservative kingdom.

A series of videos, initially posted to the Snapchat account of "Model Khuloud", show a young woman in a high-waisted mini skirt walking through a fort in Ushaiger, outside the capital Riyadh, playing with sand in the dunes and turning towards the camera for a close-up, her long hair uncovered.

The videos have since been uploaded to YouTube and tweeted by different users.

Saudi media, including the main dailies Sabq and Okaz, on Tuesday quoted a spokesman for police in Riyadh as saying the woman was being questioned and had confessed to visiting the site with her male guardian.

Saudi Arabia's guardianship system mandates accompaniment by or written permission from a male relative  usually a father, husband or brother  for women to study, work or travel.

The woman denied that she had uploaded the clips and that the Snapchat account was hers, the spokesman said.

The case has now been referred to the public prosecutor's office, which will decide whether to prosecute the woman.

The local government of Riyadh issued a memo saying authorities were taking the "necessary measures" to find the woman, who it accused of "walking around... in indecent clothing".

The Commission of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice – Saudi Arabia's "morality police" – on Sunday also confirmed it was investigating the case in coordination with "relevant authorities" via Twitter.

 
The local Okaz news website reported that officials in Ushaiger called on the region's governor and police to take actions against the woman in response to the video, without elaborating further.

Women in Saudi Arabia must wear long, loose robes known as abayas in public. Most also cover their hair and face with a black veil, though exceptions are made for visiting dignitaries.

The snaps have sparked heated debate, with social media users in the region and beyond weighing in on questions of gender and rights in the kingdom.

Many have come to the defence of the girl, pointing out the privileges afforded to Western women by Saudi authorities. US First Lady Melania Trump and Ivanka Trump, daughter of the president, did not cover their hair when they visited Saudi Arabia in May.

Ibrahim al-Munayif, a Saudi writer with more than 41,000 followers on Twitter, wrote on his official account that allowing people to disobey the law leads to chaos.

"Just like we call on people to respect the laws of countries they travel to, people must also respect the laws of this country," he wrote.

Last year, a Saudi woman received death threats and had to deactivate her social media accounts after she shared an image of herself walking in the streets of Riyadh in a dress.

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