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Saudi women launch protest against abaya by wearing garment inside out

The Independent logo The Independent 18/11/2018 Sabrina Barr

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Women in Saudi Arabia have launched a protest against the abaya, a full-length robe worn by some Muslim women, by wearing the garment inside out.

A traditional abaya is black and covers the entire body, leaving the head, feet and hands visible.

Earlier this year, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman stated that women in the country need not feel obliged to wear the abaya, as long as they dress in a “decent and respectful” manner.

“The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of sharia [Islamic law]: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” Mr Salman said in an interview with CBS.

“This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or a black head cover. The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”

a group of people wearing costumes © Provided by Independent Digital News & Media Limited

However, many women in the country have stated that they still feel required to wear the Islamic garment, which is why the “inside-out abaya” movement came about.

“Because #Saudi feminists are endlessly creative, they come up with [a] new form of protest and given it [the] hashtag ‘inside-out abaya’,” activist Nora Abdulkarim tweeted.

“They are posting pictures of [them]selves wearing their abayas inside-out in public as a silent objection to being pressured to wear it.”

Amani Al-Ahmadi, a Saudi activist based in Seattle who works with the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor, believes this protest could help to enact significant change for women in the country.

“To see another woman in flipped abayas - it builds solidarity between women and shows that they are not alone,” she tells the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“It is keeping the conversation going and could lead to change.

“It is another form of dehumanisation for women. It forces women to cover up their bodies in order to fit into society and the role of being inferior to men.”

Earlier this year, the longstanding ban on women being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia was abolished.

Despite the jubilance with which many Saudi women responded to the announcement, some may still not be able to drive unless they're granted permission to do so by their male relatives.

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