When a Saudi Woman Was Arrested For Going Outside Without Abaya and Hijab

Time and time again women have to defend their choice of clothing – in the West we are criticized for wearing too much of it and in the East, too little. It’s a dichotomy that we can never win because of the judgements of others.

Last month, a 20-year-old Saudi woman by the name of Malak Al Shehri went out for breakfast and tweeted a picture of herself wearing a colourful dress above her ankles and a loose coat. Since then she has received death threats for violating Saudi’s code of dress –  the abaya and hijab.

The post went viral in Saudi Arabia and users of social media were calling for her execution and imprisonment. As a result, she has deleted her account. Unfortunately, many people do not understand that it is the woman’s choice to wear whatever she wants. Her relationship with God should not be calculated by how many layers of clothing she has on.


On Monday, Shehri was arrested by Saudi officials. Police spokesman Fawaz Al-Maiman told AFP that it was in their line of duty to monitor “violations of general morals.”  He also accused the woman of “speaking openly about prohibited relations with (non-related) men. Riyadh police stress that the action of this woman violated the laws applied in this country,” Maiman added. 

However, she received a mass of international support. Some would even go as far by referring to her as ‘Saudi Rosa Parks,’ comparing her to civil rights leader who refused to give up her seat to a white person – she was arrested and fined – four days later the Montgomery Bus Boycott was organized.

Perhaps Shehri’s actions may serve as a springboard for further activism by women across Saudi.

Written by Teuta Hoxha

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Teuta is an undergraduate at King's College London where she is reading English Literature. She hopes to be a published writer and enjoys watching period dramas. A lot!