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Women In Saudi Arabia Are Protesting By Turning Their Abayas Inside Out

“No one should deserve to be forced into a specific dress or style.”

Posted on November 17, 2018, at 10:23 a.m. ET

Women in Saudi Arabia are wearing their abayas — long, black robes that many feel pressured to wear when they leave the house in the Islamic kingdom — inside out as part of a stealthy feminist protest.

#العبايه_المقلوبه Good morning Continuing my flipped inside out Aba’a

Waad, 21, who has been wearing her abaya inside out for a few days, told BuzzFeed News she got the idea after seeing the hashtag trend on Twitter.

“A lot of feminists are participating in that so I joined as well because I’m really into what it stands for and I support that,” she said over Twitter DMs from western Saudi Arabia. (Like all the women interviewed in this story, she asked not to be identified by her full name out of fear for her safety).

“No one should deserve to be forced into a specific dress or style.”

The women all posted careful selfies and videos of themselves under the hashtag #العبايه_المقلوبه, meaning “inside out abaya.”

#العبايه_المقلوبه !!why not

Although the hashtag was widely shared, none of the images showed the women’s faces.

#العبايه_المقلوبه مستمتعة بنظرات الذهول

Activism in the kingdom can be costly: Despite widely trumpeted reforms by the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, many activists remain in prison and international observers have warned against the increasingly repressive actions of officials.

Earlier this year, women who successfully campaigned for the right to drive were imprisoned. Many have still not been released.

This 19-year-old, who didn’t want to be formally identified, lives in the capital, Riyadh, and has been wearing her abaya inside out.

#العبايه_المقلوبه u can do it 💪🏿💪🏿

“It’s awful being a female,” she told BuzzFeed News, describing a Saudi woman as a “second-degree citizen.”

She said the abaya protest was a small gesture, but added, “I would like to think of it as a first step.”

“We need to [be] seen [and] for our voices to be heard,” she said.

One 26-year-old, who also lives in Ridayh, said she’d been wearing her abaya inside out for a week.

As a #Saudi woman, I don’t enjoy freedom to cloth. I am forced by the law to wear Abaya (black robe) everywhere but my house, which. I. can’t. take. any. more. #العبايه_المقلوبه ____ #BurnTheNiqab #NoHijabDay #MyStealthyFreedom #ForcedToWearIt #NiqabDoesNotRepresentMe https://t.co/ox51scXK3V

She said it was great to see a few other women also wearing their abayas inside out.

When she saw the hashtag, she felt immediately like joining in with the movement. “I just want to express my objection worldwide in order to correct the stereotype about Saudi women,” she explained. “The government keep giving statements Saudi women are happy where they are. I want to correct this.”

“Saudi feminists cannot be linked to the culture or the system, I prefer to consider us an independent entity.”

I will continue to wear abaya in this way to guarantee our freedom of clothing #Saudi #العباية_المقلوبة

#العباية_المقلوبة me toooooo

#العباية_المقلوبة متضامنة معاكن❤️

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in March that women did not have to wear the garment all the time.

#العباية_المقلوبة I'm with.

"The laws are very clear and stipulated in the laws of Sharia [Islamic law]: that women wear decent, respectful clothing, like men,” he told CBS TV.

“This, however, does not particularly specify a black abaya or black head cover. The decision is entirely left for women to decide what type of decent and respectful attire she chooses to wear.”

But societal attitudes have not shifted, and many women still wear the long traditional abayas when they are not in a private, women-only space.

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