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Saudis up in arms after couple filmed holding hands in Jeddah Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Saudis up in arms after couple filmed holding hands in Jeddah

In Saudi Arabia, traditional weddings in public venues are strictly gender-segregated [Twitter]

Date of publication: 4 February, 2018

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A video of a newly-wed couple walking along the promenade of the Saudi city of Jeddah has stirred up a storm of controversy on social media.

A video of a newly-wed couple walking along the promenade of the Saudi city of Jeddah has stirred up a storm of controversy on social media.

Footage shot on mobile phones of the incident has been widely shared on Twitter, prompting mixed responses in the ultraconservative country.

The couple is seen strolling along the Jeddah Corniche holding hands while the unveiled woman dressed in a wedding gown holds a bouquet of flowers as onlookers cheer and honk their car horns at them.

In Saudi Arabia, traditional weddings in public venues are strictly gender-segregated and brides are kept out of view of male attendees.

Twitter users have commented on the video using an Arabic-language hashtag, meaning "a groom celebrates on the Jeddah Corniche".

Many users criticised the couple for "exposing themselves public" and disregarding local customs and traditions, while others hailed them for challenging the status quo.

The controversy comes as the kingdoms powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has moved to ease tight restrictions on women.

Prince Mohammed was behind the long-overdue decisions to allow women to drive and to lift a 35-year-old ban on cinemas.

Despite enjoying some newfound freedoms such as the right to attend a football match, Saudi women, particularly rights activists, continue to be silenced, rights groups have warned.

The Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) have said the "scandalous" treatment of women activists in the kingdom raised questions about the monarchy's "genuine willingness" to modernise.

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.

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