Saudi Arabian woman designs abayas for freer lifestyles

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Eman Joharjy, a fashion designer sits during an interview with Reuters journalists at her shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2018. (Reuters)
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Eman Joharjy, a fashion designer smiles as she shows one of her creations at her shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2018. (Reuters)
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Eman Joharjy (L), a fashion designer smiles while standing with her employee as she tries on one of her creations at her shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2018. Picture taken June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra
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Eman Joharjy, (R) a fashion designer and her employee (L) pose in creations at her shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2018. (Reuters)
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Eman Joharjy (L), a fashion designer cycles with her friends as they wear her creations along Jeddah's Corniche, Saudi Arabia June 24, 2018. (Reuters)
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Eman Joharjy (L), a fashion designer smiles while standing with her employee as she tries on one of her creations at her shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia June 23, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 30 June 2018
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Saudi Arabian woman designs abayas for freer lifestyles

  • Colorful, embroidered jumpsuit abayas by fashion designer Eman Joharjy definitely standout
  • The designs are for different activities like the driving abaya, which features a hoodie, tight elbows to prevent the sleeves from catching on the steering wheel

JEDDAH: When Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving ended on Sunday, fashion designer Eman Joharjy and her friends drove to Jeddah’s seafront where they exchanged their car for bicycles.
The colorful, embroidered jumpsuit abayas they donned stood out among the sea of women wearing similar loose-fitting full-length robes but in the traditional black. Yet no one stopped them.
Women in Saudi Arabia are rapidly gaining more freedoms under a reform agenda spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who wants to transform the Kingdom's economy.
The government recently allowed women to join the security forces and no longer requires them to have a male relative’s consent to open a business. And while now they can drive, they still need permission to get married and travel abroad.
Mohammed bijn Salman laid the ground two years ago for many social changes, including the return of cinemas and public concerts, by curbing the powers of the religious police.
These days at sunset, as the Arabian heat eases, women do sports along the promenade.
“Women feel encouraged by the government support. They are telling them, ‘You can go run and play sports’,” said Joharjy. “But let’s change from a sedentary society to a more active one.”
In 2007, frustrated by a lack of abayas made for running or cycling, Joharjy designed one for herself. She began making them for friends and selling what she dubbed the “sporty abaya.”
Colorful racks display designs for different activities like the driving abaya, which features a hoodie, tight elbows to prevent the sleeves from catching on the steering wheel, and shorter lengths to make switching pedals easier.
Most importantly for Joharjy, there is no trace of black.
“They reflect freedom and the willingness to embrace life and make it easy for the modern woman,” she said. “Besides, women love color.”
She is optimistic that Saudi Arabia’s social rules will ease further. But she still believes that many women will continue to wear the abaya in one form or another.
For her, the robe is like the Indian sari, a symbol of cultural heritage rather than religion.


Kyrgyz singer receives death threats over feminist video

Updated 11 min 25 sec ago
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Kyrgyz singer receives death threats over feminist video

  • Zere Asylbek’s music video ‘Kyz’ became a sensation in the Central Asian country following its release last week
  • In the video Asylbek sings that ‘a time will come when nobody will tell me: Don’t wear it, don’t do it’

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan: A 19-year-old singer in Kyrgyzstan has filed a complaint with police after receiving death threats over a music video she released targeting gender discrimination in the ex-Soviet republic.
Zere Asylbek’s music video “Kyz” became a sensation in the Central Asian country following its release last week but has angered conservatives who say it insults national values, focusing on the singer’s visible underwear.
Asylbek said that she had filed reports with police in the capital Bishkek after receiving numerous threats of physical violence including several death threats.
One threat posted by an anonymous Facebook profile to a group on the social media platform threatened to kill her if the video was not deleted.
Another user whose post Asylbek sent as a screenshot to AFP wrote that they “would gladly join” the first commentator, and “rip your head off.”
“Kyz,” which means girl in the Kyrgyz language had had more than 217,000 views on YouTube by Friday and is Asylbek’s first released song.
Asylbek said on Thursday that the video’s main message was to “respect the person you really are” while also “respecting the choices, opinions and ways of life of others.”
The video features Asylbek dressed in a suit jacket and skirt with a purple bra underneath, a woman wearing a hijab, a woman wearing a Kyrgzy-style headscarf and a woman with a partly shaved head, showing Kyrgyz society’s diversity.
In the video Asylbek sings that “a time will come when nobody will tell me: Don’t wear it, don’t do it.”
She also calls on the other women featured in the clip to “join me, create our own freedom.”
Asylbek said that she had expected her choice of different women representing different facets of society to be understood as provocative but was surprised at the online attention devoted to her purple bra.
In a Facebook post her father Asylbek Zhoodonbekov voiced support, calling his daughter “a free-thinking daughter of a free Kyrgyzstan.”
He said she had grown more politically conscious after a recent incident in which a man killed a young woman in a police station after attempting to abduct her for a forced marriage.
The murder in May sparked protests in Kyrgyzstan, a poor, majority-Muslim country where thousands of women are kidnapped for marriage every year in a practice dating back to the country’s nomadic past while law enforcement is accused of ignoring the problem.