Saudi uproar after 11-year-old girl filmed in 'scandalous' dance

Saudi uproar after 11-year-old girl filmed in 'scandalous' dance
Video: A girl wearing a traditional wedding costume and full make-up has caused uproar in Saudi Arabia after being filmed dancing in a mixed-sex festival in Jizan.
2 min read
05 Feb, 2018
The girl (L) appeared in a mixed-sex festival in Jizan, triggering immediate controversy [Twitter]

A girl wearing a traditional wedding costume and full make-up, but still in hijab, has caused uproar in Saudi Arabia after being filmed in a mixed-gender festival over the weekend in the town of Jizan.

Making matters worse, the girl, who in the video marches alongside a man in simulation of a zaffa, a traditional wedding dance, was later revealed to be just 11 years old.

Following outrage on social media in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the tourism board of Jizan province in south-west Saudi Arabia launched an investigation, and banned the event planner from further activities in the Heritage Village, the venue of the dance

Saudi press reports suggested the man may have also been detained, but he later appeared on television to defend himself, according to Saudi news outlet Sabq on Monday.

"The man responsible has been suspended... because it is not acceptable for such appearances to take place in a conservative society," the chief of Jizan's tourism board Rustum al-Kobeissy told local television.
We have blurred the face of the girl
in the video sourced from Twitter

"The girl was only 11, but she is tall and was wearing [adult] clothes, so she appeared older," he added.

The video "has angered our religion and morals and Arab traditions, the majority of people," tweeted Saudi commentator Mohammed al-Yahya.

Some even suggested Saudi Arabia was sliding towards "immorality", alluding to the video and another incident where a man was filmed holding hands with his wife in the Red Sea city of Jeddah. 

This is not the first time Jizan has sparked controversy in the kingdom. In December, Saudi authorities ordered the closure of a beach resort and temporarily halted cultural events following harsh criticism of a mixed-gender concert.

The debacle comes as Saudi Arabia has sought to ease social restrictions on women, who in public spaces are segregated from men or have a separate section for families.

Riyadh in recent months has organised concerts, comedy shows, a Comic-Con pop culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time.

In December, Lebanese singer Hiba Tawaji performed in the capital in its first female-only music concert.

But despite these newfound freedoms, Saudi women, particularly rights activists, continue to be silenced, rights groups have warned.

Saudi women are still subject to a guardianship system, meaning they have to obtain permission from a male family member to study, travel and engage in a host of other activities.