A Saudi Arabian television reporter has gone on the run, according to the Israeli news site Haaretz, and fled the country after a major uproar ensued over an outfit she wore on the air during one of her news reports. In a stunning twist of irony, the reporter, Shereen Al-Rifaie, was covering the news of Saudi Arabia’s infamous driving ban being lifted on Sunday after the notorious regulation was in effect for a half century.
In video clips that have surfaced on social media, Al-Rifaie, a correspondent for the Al-Aan TV station, which is based in the United Arab Emirates, can be seen delivering her report wearing a white abaya and a white headscarf. Both garments are loose fitting and allow her hair and the white pants and shirt she was wearing underneath to be seen. At one point, Al-Rifaie can be seen getting behind the wheel of a car and driving away.
#Saudi General Authority for Audiovisual Media investigates anchor Shereen Rifai “for violating regulations and instructions” by “wearing indecent clothing” during a report she present on ending the ban on women driving in #SaudiArabia according to Okaz newspaper pic.twitter.com/3PDvRwVe2q
— Zaid Benjamin (@zaidbenjamin) June 26, 2018
The video, which has been widely shared on social media, sparked a massive uproar in the conservative kingdom. Outrage ran so high, that accusations of a “naked woman driving in Riyadh” went viral. Not everyone was upset by the sight, however, as Agence-France Presse reports. Some on social media mocked those who described a fully-clothed woman as “naked.”
Still, the uproar was enough to trigger the The General Commission for Audiovisual Media to launch a formal investigation and, in a post on Twitter, accused her of “wearing indecent clothing.” Upon hearing of the probe, Al-Rifaie fled the country, posting a photo of a plane ticket and a passport on Snapchat, according to The Daily Mail.
Speaking with the Saudi news agency Ajel, Al-Rifaie pushed back against the allegations. “I was wearing decent clothes, and God will reveal the truth of what has been said about me,” she reportedly said.
Shereen al-Rifaie has fled #SaudiArabia after she discovered authorities were after her for wearing these clothes. What will be interesting is whether western journalists will report this or stick to thes pun story about #WomensRights advancing, re driving licence. pic.twitter.com/oSaq2UASuB
— Martin Jay (@MartinRJay) June 27, 2018
Some in the Arab world criticized the government of the conservative kingdom for all of the relations efforts it has devoted to publicizing the lifting of the driving ban at the same time as launching an investigation into whether a woman’s clothing is “in violation of regulations and instructions.” Meanwhile, another women’s rights activist has reportedly been arrested. At least nine activists, many of whom campaigned for an end to the driving ban, have been detained. Al Jazeera reported that Hatoon al-Fassi, a writer, scholar and prominent leader on women’s rights, is now in custody. She is known having fought for women to be allowed to vote in municipal elections.