Saudi police free model arrested for wearing short skirt


'Model Khulood' was arrested on Tuesday after being filmed wearing a short skirt and a crop top in an ultra-conservative region

A still from the video showing the model walking in a short skirt (Snapchat)
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Last update: 
Wednesday 19 July 2017 16:00 UTC

Saudi police have released without charge a woman who was filmed wearing a short skirt at a historic site in the kingdom, the government said Wednesday.

The ministry of information said police had released the woman Tuesday night and the prosector had closed the case.

Police said Tuesday they were questioning the woman after she appeared in a series of videos, initially posted to messaging app Snapchat, wearing a crop top and a high-waisted miniskirt.

She had been filmed walking through the historic fort of Ushaiqer, north of Riyadh, and playing with sand in the dunes.

The videos were uploaded over the weekend to the "Model Khulood" Snapchat account.

The ministry said in a statement that the woman had confessed to walking through the site in a skirt with her hair uncovered but that the footage had been uploaded without her knowledge.

Women are required to wear long black abaya robes and cover their hair in public in most of Saudi Arabia, which has some of the world's harshest restrictions on women.

The kingdom does not allow women to drive and requires them to be accompanied or given written permission by a male relative - usually a father, husband or brother - to study, work or travel.

The videos sparked heated debate among social media users in the region and beyond on questions of gender and rights in the kingdom.

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.

When steamy tabloid pictures showed wealthy Saudi businessman Hasan al Jameel kissing American pop icon Rihanna in a pool last month, many Saudi men whooped in praise.

"Why is no one asking for his trial?" user Noura Suliman asked querulously on Wednesday.

"Everyone's acting like a saint over just a skirt, while Hassan al-Jameel lay in Rihanna's arms and no one said a thing. Everyone praises him for that while Saudi women are being insulted," said Shajan al-Qahtani.

Others were unmoved, however, arguing that the kingdom has its own particular social codes like any other country.

"We should respect the laws of the country," a Saudi man named Faisal shot back.

"In France, the niqab (face veil) is banned and women are fined if they wear it. In Saudi Arabia, wearing robes and modest clothing is part of the kingdom's laws," tweeted one activist.