DUBAI, July 19, (Agencies): Saudi Arabia announced Wednesday that a woman who was detained after wearing a miniskirt in a video that went viral has been released without charge.
Police in Saudi Arabia had arrested the young woman for wearing “immodest clothes” after an outcry from people who say she flagrantly violated the kingdom’s conservative Islamic dress code.
The young Saudi woman drew attention over the weekend when the video was shared online of her walking in a historic village north of the capital wearing a miniskirt and crop top, and showing her hair.
Saudi rules require all women living in the kingdom, including foreigners, to wear long, loose robes known as abayas in public. Most Saudi women also wear a headscarf and veil that covers the face.
A statement released by the Center for International Communication said police released the woman, who was not named. It says she was released Tuesday evening after a few hours of questioning and that she told investigators that the video posted on social media was published without her knowledge.
“She was released without charge and the case has been closed by the prosecutor,” the statement said.
It was a rare win for supporters of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia, who criticized the public outcry against her, which prompted police to bring her in for questioning. Her release from detention without charge was also unusual. Women who have fled allegedly abusive families have landed in prison without charge, as have women who defied a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia.
The decision not to press charges also comes as Saudi Arabia overhauls its prosecution system. Last month, King Salman announced that the public prosecution powers would be moved from under the interior minister’s purview to that of the royal court, directly under the monarch. A new attorney general was also named in the reshuffling.
The country’s new 31-year-old heir to the throne, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has pushed for greater openings in society as part of a wider overhaul plan called Vision 2030. More than half of Saudi Arabia’s population is under 25.
After Saudi police arrested a woman who appeared in an online video wearing an “indecent” skirt and crop top, many Saudis sprang to her defence on social media on Wednesday 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.
The online video provoked a storm of outraged commentary on social media culminating in her arrest. Her fate is not known, nor is it known if formal charges will be brought against her.
Women in the ultra-conservative kingdom are bound by law to wear robes and a headscarf, are banned from driving and require consent of a male guardian for most legal actions.
But after her detention was reported by state media, many people in the smart phone-obsessed kingdom rushed to her defense, 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.