Saudi Arabian officials have denied claims that the conservative country's state television network blurred out images of Michelle Obama during a program about a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama and the new Saudi King Salman in Riyadh.
On Tuesday, several video clips were posted online purporting to show that Saudi television had blurred the first lady out of its broadcast because her attire did not conform to the country's standards for women's appearance in public. The first lady, though dressed conservatively, did not wear a headscarf or veil, sparking reactions from Saudi observers on social media, The Washington Post reported. However, Saudi officials have denied the claim, saying that the videos are not real.
“Saudi TV has been showing the total arrival ceremony at the airport and at the Palace and nowhere is anything blurred,” Nail al-Jubeir, information director at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told Bloomberg View.
The Obamas cut short their much-hyped trip to India to attend the funeral of the late Saudi King Abdullah, who died last Friday. And while the visit was considered a crucial one highlighting the importance of the U.S.-Saudi relationship, much of the attention of social media users was focused on the first lady’s attire. However, many observers of the live broadcast also reportedly said that images of the first lady were not blurred out while she was shaking hands with King Salman.
Michelle Obama’s blurry video is not real. The arrival was broadcast in full on state television without any blurring. @Max_Fisher
— Ahmed Al Omran (@ahmed) January 27, 2015
The first lady was dressed in long pants and long sleeves but without a headscarf, which is Saudi Arabia’s state-mandated dress code for women. Covering the head is not obligatory for foreigners, though a recent study by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research revealed that only 3 percent of Saudis consider a woman properly dressed in public without a headscarf, the Wall Street Journal reported.
However, the first lady's dress drew a variety of reactions from Twitter users, some of whom praised her for not covering her head, while others criticized her for the decision using an Arabic hashtag that translates to #MichelleObama_NotVeiled.
— Angeles Espinosa (@AngelesELPAIS) January 27, 2015
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) January 27, 2015
Some users also wondered why she had covered her head on a previous trip to Indonesia.
— نورة العتيبي (@Riyadh_K_S_A) January 27, 2015
In addition, some local media outlets also criticized the first lady for wearing a blue dress, and not a black one, Bloomberg View reported.
Here is a video purporting to show that Saudi TV blurred the first lady's image: