July 19 (UPI) — A woman arrested after a video surfaced of her walking near an ancient Saudi fort in a miniskirt and crop top has been released without charges, authorities said Wednesday.
Riyadh police had arrested the woman for wearing “suggestive clothing,” Saudi state television station Al Ekhbariya reported Tuesday. The arrest followed some outrage online about the video.
Autorities questioned the woman for several hours but didn’t charge her, according to a statement published by the Saudi Center for International Communication. The video was published without her knowledge, the statement said.
“She was released without charge and the case has been closed by the prosecutor,” the statement said.
The brief clips, originally posted to Snapchat last weekend by a user named Khulood, drew worldwide attention. The woman is seen walking through an ancient fort in Ushayqir, a village in Najd province about 95 miles from Riyadh, wearing a skirt that stops above her knees and a top that revealed her midriff. Also, her head is uncovered.
Saudi Arabia law requires women to cover themselves while in public by wearing an abaya, a loosefitting cloak. Saudi women also are also expected to wear some kind of hijab or head covering, and some opt to cover their face with a niqab.
Foreigners are usually exempted from such rules.
Adult women also need permission of a “male guardian” to do things such as work or travel, and they are prohibited from getting a driver’s license.
In a poll in 2014, 63 percent of Saudis believed that women should wear a niqab and just 3 percent thought women not covering their hair were dressed appropriately. The poll was conducted by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research and distributed by the Pew Research Center.
“Saudi Arabia’s continuing obsession with policing women’s clothing choices shows authorities haven’t moved on from the paternalistic and discriminatory mind-set that hampers women’s lives,” Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division, said to The Washington Post. “Saudi Arabia’s purported plans to reshape society and advance women’s rights will never succeed as long as authorities go after women for what they wear.”
On Sunday, Saudi newspaper Okaz reported that local officials had written the region’s governor and police and asked them for action against those who made the video. Monday, the local Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, regarded as the religious police, announced it had contacted authorities over the video.