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Eat don't look!: image sparks debate in Saudi Arabia

Saudi women are banned from driving and are required to cover themselves in public [Twitter]

Date of publication: 29 March, 2016

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A viral image of a Saudi man covering his wife with a headscarf in a restaurant has ignited heated online discussion on women's rights in the Kingdom.
A candid picture of a husband draping his wife with a headscarf as they enjoyed a meal in a booth in a restaurant has sparked heated debate in Saudi Arabia.

Saudis took to Twitter on Sunday to share their divided opinions, with some users defending the husband's overprotective care and others viewing it has an uncivilised attempt to control her.

After the picture went viral, the man in the picture responded to his critics in a video, telling them that he had covered his wife in accordance with "Islamic teachings and Arab customs", so that no one would look at his "jewel".

Despite his rebuttal, many social media users were still highly critical of his actions.

"[He thinks] jealousy and manliness means windowless homes, towering walls, blacking out faces and identities, stealing lives and rights and treating people as moving sex organs, whose presence in public is shameful," said one user.

Self-proclaimed feminist Raghd Abdel Aziz said: "I feel sorry for him because he is a prisoner of a doctrine that believes women should be concealed even if they are wearing a black abaya. I feel sorry for her because she has not spoken out and has been convinced he has the right to control her."

Khalid said: "This is a very common sight and isn't anything new. He is free to do this and I am free to say: You should have stayed at home."

Many other users supported the man and condemned the photographer for infringing on his privacy.

"My God, this has become a strange occurrence even though it is correct conduct. When men stop being jealous societies become corrupt," said columnist Fahd al-Rouqi.

Lawyer Khalid Abu Rashid said: "Whoever took the picture and uploaded it to social media could be charged with committing the cyber crime of defamation."

Another user agreed: "The only savage in this is the person who took a picture of them."

Human rights groups have long spoken out against discrimination against women in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi women are banned from driving and are required to cover themselves in public. They are subject to other routine restrictions including the need to have the permission of a male guardian to leave the country.

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