Sophy Ridge at the Telegraph says what I more or less assumed – that Michelle Obama’s non-compliance with the Saud family dress code was an intentional snub. I more or less assumed that simply because there’s not really any way it could be just neutral, given what everyone knows about “the kingdom” and how many people are available to tell her all about it.
Make no mistake: this was a deliberate decision by the First Lady.
She and her advisers will have been well aware of expectations in the ultraconservative Saudi Arabia. They will have known her outfit choice would attract attention away from the role of her husband, Barack Obama, who cut short a trip to India in order to lead a parade of dignitaries in Riyadh, paying respect after King Abdullah’s death.
In a way it’s a little surprising that it happened at all, given the need Barack Obama apparently felt to suck up to the sadistic monarch despite the ongoing outrages against human rights in “the kingdom.”
Before arriving in Riyadh, Barack Obama was on a trip to India where he spoke about the importance of women’s rights. Hours later, he was all smiles and warm hand-shakes in a country where women are forbidden from travelling, marrying and working without express permission from a male guardian.
The President is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Saudi Arabia is a key ally of the US in the Middle East and criticism is politically difficult.
The UK government decided to fly flags at half-mast to show respect for the death of King Abdullah for the same reason. But while the men carefully stepped around the prickly issue of women’s rights, the First Lady made her own pointed political statement.
Other people’s rights are always expendable, I guess.