A Saudi woman has been arrested for defying the kingdom’s strict dress code by walking around in a miniskirt and crop top in a video that sparked public outrage.
The woman, whose name was not given, was detained by police in the capital, Riyadh, for wearing “immodest clothes” that contradicted the country’s conservative Islamic dress code, state media reported Tuesday. Police referred her case to the public prosecutor, according to the official Twitter account of state-run TV channel al-Ekhbariya.
In the video, which has gone viral since first emerging on Snapchat over the weekend, the woman is filmed walking around a historic fort in a miniskirt with no one else around. The short video, shot in a village in the desert region of Najd, where many of Saudi Arabia’s most conservative tribes and families are from, is followed by other shots of her sitting in the desert.
The video sparked a Twitter hashtag that called for her arrest, with many saying she flagrantly disobeyed Saudi rules, which require all women living in the kingdom, including foreigners, to wear long, loose robes known as abayas in public. Most Saudi women also wear a headscarf and veil that covers the face.
Social media is wildly popular in Saudi Arabia as a space to vent frustrations and gauge public opinion. The outcry against the video and the woman’s subsequent arrest reveal how powerful and widespread conservative views are in the kingdom, despite recent moves by Saudi Arabia to modernize and loosen some rules.
The government announced last week that girls would be allowed for the first time to play sports in public school and have access to physical education classes. The powers of the kingdom’s religious police have also been curtailed, and they are officially no longer allowed to arrest people.
Despite these moves, strict gender segregation rules and other restrictions on women remain in place. Women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia and cannot obtain a passport or travel abroad without a male relative’s permission.
The woman’s image was blurred on Saudi news websites reporting on the case. It is common in Saudi Arabia to see heavily blurred or pixelated images of women’s faces on billboards and storefronts – in stark contrast to the many towering images of senior male royals displayed across the country.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.