Saudi Arabian Women Wear Clothing Inside Out In Protest
By Sofy Robertson
Saudi Arabian women have found a subtle way to protest another imposed limitation on their lives.
Women in Saudi Arabia are wearing their abayas (traditional loose black cloaks) inside out, exposing the hidden seams. Thousands have launched their campaign online and on the streets of the kingdom in protest of not being able to choose their clothing. On Twitter, the hashtag ‘inside-out abaya’ has been used to signify the campaign.
Technically, there is no legal requirement for Saudi women to wear the abaya. Islamic scripture refers to women “covering themselves with a loose garment” and Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman said women are required to wear “decent, respectful clothing like men” (Quartz). He assured citizens that the black abaya was not a particular specification, saying:
“The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”
The reality being increasingly broadcast by Saudi women tells a very different story. The hashtag ‘Forced to wear it’ has been used by those protesting the abaya on Twitter, with one woman tweeting:
“As a #Saudi woman, I don’t enjoy freedom to cloth. I am forced by the law to wear Abaya (black robe) everywhere but my house, which. I. can’t. take. any. more.”
Restrictions upon Saudi women currently leave them unable to apply for a passport or travel without permission from a male ‘guardian’ or relative. A small step for women’s freedoms was celebrated last year in Saudi Arabia when they were given the right to drive. Since then, however, many of the activists who drove the change in law have since been arrested and held on charges of trying to undermine security and stability.
The fight to choose one’s own clothing is an inherently personal struggle but one that forecasts an important step towards the elusive goal of gender equality in Saudi Arabia.