A girl wearing a miniskirt, with her belly exposed and her uncovered hair loose in the wind, had never been seen in Saudi Arabia. But thanks to the power of social networks, the image of a model named “Khulood” appeared on Snapchat and quickly went viral.
Her image, typical for us, could become a revolutionary icon to Saudi women. Just like the women drivers were. The obscurantism of the Saudi rulers hides all manner of male perversions (provided they are not practiced by Shiites) but not the slightest freedom to women. Saudi women can do nothing if not accompanied by their “guardian;” they cannot even search the internet. And so, Khulood, whose full identity remains unknown, came out of prison and stated she had not posted the video of herself, which she has seen only in the company of her “guardian.”
True or false, that reveals all the hypocrisy of the Saudi kingdom.
And it is likely that the story will not end like this, because it has already sparked the ire of religious protectors of Wahhabism, which is the state religion. Especially since Khulood’s “provocation” took place in the Ushayqir castle, a historical site about 150 kilometers south of Riyadh, in Najed province. This is the birthplace of the House of Saud, progenators of the Saudi Kingdom, as well as the birthplace of Wahhabism, the most archaic version of Islam.
In the name of Wahhabism, the Saudis are unleashing a new inter-Arab conflict against the Qataris, who are also obscurantist but linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since the appearance of Khulood, the extreme Orthodox have immediately asked for the reactivation of the Haya, the Committee for the Defense of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, whose power has been reduced by the Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. It was not reduced to reform accepted moral codes — imposed especially against women, who must wear the abaya, the black veil that covers from head to toe —but perhaps as a timid response to the brutal methods used by the Moutawa.
Haifaa al-Mansour, the Saudi author of the beautiful book The Green Bicycle, told me that the regime will not oppress the desire for freedom of the younger Saudi generation much longer. The determination of her main character, the young Wadjda, to have the bicycle is seen today in the repeated rebellious gestures happening in the Arabian Peninsula. Last December, the 20-year-old Malak al Sheri posted on Twitter a picture of herself wearing a floral dress under a modern jacket, without a veil and wearing sunglasses. She was arrested for violation of morality.
Faced with these symbolic gestures, the debate is raging on social media and women have mobilized against those who want to impose the full body coverings without embroidery, forbid makeup, prevent women from working and other injustices that make Saudi Arabia the most repressive country against women. Blogs were created to denounce violence against women and campaign against domestic violence, which has been a criminal offense since 2013.
The paradox is that for the woman to file a complaint about the violence inflicted by the husband, she has to go to the police accompanied by her guardian — the husband. Even among the women of the royal house, their reform-minded sentiments seem to have no effect on the system. “Cancelling the driving ban for women, promoting women’s political movements and living in a society which guarantees equal rights for all” are the objectives of the “revolutionary Saudi princess” Ameerah al Taweel.
It would be great if social networks would post next to Khulood images of the Algerian women in bikinis against burkinis, Tunisian Amina and many others who are fighting for their rights.
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