The medieval Islamic system enforced in Saudi Arabia is on display this week after Malak Al Shehri decided to do what most women around the world do without a second’s thought: she went out into public without covering herself up with a veil or hijab. Malak then posted herself on a public street. The result has been volcanic with some supporting her courage but many others calling for her to be beheaded or “thrown to the dogs.” It is a reminder of the plight of women in the Kingdom and other Islamic countries imposing Sharia law.
A student from Dammam using the name of Sara Ahmed shared the shot showing Malak wearing a black coat over a calf-length dress. Sara captained the picture in a way that captured the absurdity of the situation for modern women: “A Saudi woman went out yesterday without an Abaya or a hijab in Riyadh Saudi Arabia and many Saudis are now demanding her execution.”
All women in Saudi Arabia – local and foreign – are legally required to wear an abaya or traditional full-body covering. Foreign women are exempted from the mandatory headscarf – or hijab.
These young women (and those fighting for the right to drive and leave their homes without male approval) are the Saudi “Seneca Falls” generation of courageous human rights advocates. We will continue to follow and highlight their struggle. They are a reminder that the rights that we take for granted remain only aspirations for many around the world.