A group of women in the United Arab Emirates, fed up with scantily clad female tourists, are doing something about the matter on Twitter.
The UAE has a strict indecency code which prevents people from drinking alcohol outside of bars or nightclubs and outlaws public displays of affection. Though there are no specific laws related to dress, some citizens of the Gulf state are none too pleased with the clothes foreigners wear in public.
After seeing two ladies adorned in almost underwear-length attire at a mall, 23-year-old Emirati Asma al-Muhairi aired her concerns on Twitter, as did Hanan al-Rayes. Following messages of support from their followers, the duo set up the @UAEDressCode Twitter account to protest against Western styles of dress in the UAE.
As The Associated Press notes, Emiratis make up just 10 percent of the UAE’s population, with Asian, African, and Middle Eastern workers and temporary western residents making up the remainder. This largely stems from Dubai’s boom as a bustling metropolis in recent years. That influx of foreigners has led to an increase in indecency code violations. In 2008, for instance, a British couple was jailed for three months for al fresco beach sex.
Westerners often flout malls’ internal dress code policies, as well. Most require consumers to dress conservatively and avoid revealing their knees and shoulders. However, the AP notes few malls make these policies publicly known, let alone enforce them.
Though far from the first dress code campaign, @UAEDressCode quickly gained traction after starting May 19, picking up more than 3,400 followers. The account’s prompted some spirited discussion about a dress code for the UAE, with some concerned hardline rules will make Emirati relations with foreigners a little edgier.
Al-Muhairi, who works in marketing, simply wants foreigners to respect local customs without necessarily wearing a black abaya, as she often does.
“We never want to judge,” she told the AP. “Do whatever you want and wear what you want but with limits. Just respect the public here.”
Meanwhile, all 10 tourists with whom the AP spoke at malls in Dubai and Abu Dhabi claimed they had no idea about mall dress codes being in place, nor did they know their summer dresses, shorts and T-shirts violated them. They said they have the right to dress as they choose, both for fashion reasons and to keep cool.
It remains to be seen where al-Muhairi’s campaign will lead, though it has gained momentum over the past couple of months. The campaign has attracted the attention of the Federal National Council (a significant federal authority, though one without law-making powers) and the #uaedresscode hashtag has garnered around 9,000 cumulative mentions on Twitter.
Photo by Jack Zalium