Social media in Saudi Arabia divided over arrest of “abaya”-less model Kholoud

A 27-year-old aspiring model from Saudi Arabia is in police custody after a video of her walking in the historic village of Ushayqir, east of the capital Riyadh, wearing clothing that contravenes the cultural norms of the Kingdom, surfaced on social media.

In the short video, the woman — identified only as Kholoud — appears in a black miniskirt and sleeveless crop top. Women residing in the country are expected to wear a loose, black, full-length garment known as an abaya whenever they are in a public place.

Within hours of the video going viral, a police investigation was initiated, and early on Tuesday the Riyadh Police issued a statement indicating that the woman had been identified and questioned. The story made international headlines after it was first reported in local daily Okaz.

“Investigators specializing in such matters found several videos circulating on social networking programs that included those of a woman wandering in the heritage village of Ushayqir dressed indecently,” the police statement said.

“According to the system of combating cybercrime, the woman’s identity has been ascertained. She has acknowledged that she visited the heritage village, and claims the videos were published by an unknown person without her consent.”

The case has been referred to the Public Prosecution Department to take the necessary action, the statement added.
Arab News spoke with Capt. Sattam Al-Huzaini of the Riyadh Police on Tuesday night, hours after the police statement was released. He gave no indication as to whether the woman remains in police custody or has been released, adding that he had no further comment on the case beyond what had already been published in the statement.

On social media however, many Saudis posted messages of support to the woman, saying that there was nothing wrong with what she had done, particularly since she had not offended anyone, since there was nobody at the site when she visited.

Others took a more conservative view, calling for the woman to be punished for promoting sin, stating that her actions violate the Kingdom’s cultural and religious traditions.


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