In Brief

Why Saudi women are wearing their clothes inside out

Thousands have joined online protest against abaya robes

Women across Saudi Arabia are striking back against the strict rules that govern their lives by subverting the kingdom’s dress codes.

For decades, women have been required to wear the abaya, a loose, body-covering robe, when in public - a dress code strictly enforced by police.

That appeared to have changed in March, when Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman declared that his female citizens only needed to dress modestly and not necessarily to wear abayas. The prince told CBS TV: “The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia, that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men... The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”

“In practice, however, wearing the abaya is all but compulsory - and Saudi women have had enough,” reports Quartz.

Thousands have posted images online showing them wearing the traditional robes inside out, under the hashtag “inside-out abaya”, in a growing campaign aimed at winning women more freedom.

Describing abayas as “another form of dehumanisation for women”, US-based Saudi activist Amani Al-Ahmadi called the protest a “brilliant move” that could create real change.

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

Saudi Arabia has long been a restrictive country for women

Although women gained the right to drive last year, several female activists have since been arrested “under an apparent crackdown on dissent”, the BBC reports.

Saudi women still need the permission of a male guardian - usually a husband, father, brother or son - to apply for a passport, travel abroad, open a bank account, and get married, among other things. 

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