Michelle Obama navigates limits on women in Saudi Arabia | Inquirer News

Michelle Obama navigates limits on women in Saudi Arabia

/ 08:53 AM January 28, 2015
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama participate in a delegation receiving line with new Saudi Arabian King, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, fith left, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. The president and first lady have come to expresses their condolences on the death of the late Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama participate in a delegation receiving line with new Saudi Arabian King, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, fith left, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015. The president and first lady have come to expresses their condolences on the death of the late Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. AP

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Joining President Barack Obama for a condolence visit after the death of the King Abdullah, Mrs. Obama stepped off of Air Force One wearing long pants and a long, brightly colored jacket — but no headscarf.

Under the kingdom’s strict dress code for women, Saudi females are required to wear a headscarf and loose, black robes in public. Most women in Saudi Arabia cover their hair and face with a veil known as the niqab. But covering one’s head is not required for foreigners, and some Western women choose to forego the headscarf while in Saudi Arabia.

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As a delegation of dozens of Saudi officials — all men — greeted the Obamas in Riyadh, some shook hands with Mrs. Obama. Others avoided a handshake but acknowledged the first lady with a nod as they passed by.

Saudi Arabia imposes many restrictions on women on the strict interpretation of Islamic Shariah (shah-REE’-yuh) law known as Wahhabism. Genders are strictly segregated. Women are banned from driving, although there have been campaigns in recent years to lift that ban. Guardianship laws also require women to get permission from a male relative to travel, get married, enroll in higher education or undergo certain surgical procedures.

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TAGS: Barack Obama, headscarf, King Abdullah, King Salman, Michelle Obama, Obama, Saudi Arabia
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