Police in Saudi Arabia have detained a woman who was featured in a social media video wearing a miniskirt and a crop-top as she strolled through a Saudi city, according to a Saudi police statement.
The woman, who has been questioned by Riyadh police, told them that “the viral videos were published by an account attributed to her without her knowledge,” according to the statement. The statement adds that the woman’s case has been referred to the general prosecution department in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
On Sunday, the spokesperson for the Presidency of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice — also known as the religious police — said the group was monitoring the issue and taking the “necessary steps” to address a viral video depicting a “girl in offensive clothing.”
Saudi Arabia adheres to a strict interpretation of Islamic law. Women are expected to wear loose-fitting clothing, known as an abaya, and Saudi women are required to cover their hair.
The video showed the woman walking along an empty street in the historic town of Ushayqir, according to the police statement.
Local media have reported that Ushayqar officials have called on the provincial governor and police to take steps against the woman.
Ushayqir — a city in Saudi Arabia’s Najd province — is the birthplace of Wahhabism, the kingdom’s ultra-conservative school of Islamic thought.
Video prompts social media debate
The incident has prompted questions from social media users around the hashtag #مطلوب_محاكمه_مودل_خلود, which translates as “the trial of Khulood the model is a must,” after Saudi directives curtailed their powers last year.
Many have jumped to the woman’s defense. Saudi women’s rights Twitter activist Fatima al-Issa wrote, “If she were Western, they would have praised her waist and her enchanting eyes, but because she’s Saudi they call for her to be tried!”
Social media users have called the woman “Khulood the model,” but police have not released her identity.
Under the directives announced in 2016, the religious police — better known as the Haia — can no longer detain people they identify as breaking the kingdom’s strict standards of moral conduct.
However, religious police must report individuals’ “misbehaviors” to the police or drug police, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
Historically, the role of Saudi Arabia’s religious police has been to ensure people’s adherence to Islamic laws — such as the prohibition of alcohol and drugs, gender segregation and ensuring that women are appropriately covered.