Outrage After Female TV Presenter Reads News Without Veil

Significant: Saudi news sites suggested it was the first time a presenter has read a bulletin without wearing a veil or headscarf on a state-owned news channel. The newsreader was broadcasting in Arabic from London

Significant: Saudi news sites suggested it was the first time a presenter has read a bulletin without wearing a veil or headscarf on a state-owned news channel. The newsreader was broadcasting in Arabic from London

A newsreader has caused a stir in Saudi Arabia by shunning traditional Islamic dress to deliver a bulletin "bare-headed."

The presenter was broadcasting from the London studio of Al Ekhbariya, a state-owned news channel which featured the Kingdom's first female newsreader when it launched a decade ago.

Women often appear on Saudi TV without wearing headscarves or veils, but the appearance was thought by many to be the first by a newsreader on a government-owned station.

The bulletin last week prompted a string of reactions on Twitter and news stories on Saudi websites.

A Twitter hashtag in Arabic circulated which translated roughly as #NewsEncouragesAdornments with one user, @HoNABIL, branding the channel 'Zionist enemies of religion'.

Another, @maysaaX, remarked that it was a 'psychological jolt' for the conservative country.

Several other users commented on how unusual the sight was, and some welcomed it as a step forward for personal freedom and women's rights.

Clips and stills circulating online showed the newsreader in two outfits, suggesting she had opted not to wear a headscarf or veil for at least two bulletins.

But the channel has disappointed those who hoped it was becoming more liberal, releasing a promise that the incident will not happen again.

Spokesman Saleh Al Mughailif issued the statement after the clip was shared on several Arabic language news sites and viewed tens of thousands of times.

According to Gulf News, he said: 'She was not in a studio inside Saudi Arabia and we do not tolerate any transgression of our values and the country’s systems'.

He also played down the significance of the incident, emphasising the newsreader was simply 'a correspondent reading the news from a studio in Britain'.

It is common for Saudi TV to feature women who are not wearing headscarves, but it usually only happens on foreign-made shows or when women feature as guests. 

Several Saudi commentators said it was believed to be the first time a female newsreader in the country had not worn a head covering.

Al Ekhbariya launched in January 2004 and its first bulletin made headlines by featuring the Islamic state's first female newsreader, who wore Western clothes with a hijab headscarf.

The newsreader stopped short of wearing the niqab, the full face veil seen as a requirement in other parts of the country.

The clip is the latest chapter in the long battle for women's rights in Saudi Arabia, which in October saw a landmark demonstration over its law preventing any woman from driving a car.

Dozens of women got behind the wheel in full-face veils to protest in Riyadh, where the TV station is based.

Apart from expats who live in the Kingdom, almost all Saudis follow Islam with the vast majority describing themselves as Sunnis.

(source)

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