MEDINA (Dispatches) -- A controversial photoshoot involving foreign supermodels was allowed by Saudi Arabia in the province of Medina raising questions about the inappropriateness of the entire exercise involving women dressed in tight-fitted, skimpy clothes.
The Middle East Monitor (MEMO) reported that the Saudi regime, controlled by Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, gave permission for Vogue Arabia to conduct the raunchy photoshoot of supermodels within the historical site of Al-Ula in the province of Medina.
In the photoshoot, named ‘24 hours in AlUla,’ the models were seen wearing tight dresses with thigh-slits while they posed and walked around the UNESCO World Heritage site, known as the world’s largest open air museum consisting of carved rock structures similar to Jordan’s Petra.
The Saudi royal family has long claimed to be the custodian of Muslims’ holiest shrines. However, the site of the photoshoot is within the same province which includes Medina near Mecca – both the holiest places in the world to Muslims.
The controversial photoshoot is part of a series of "reforms” dismissed by activists as cosmetic, that the kingdom has been implementing in recent years in order to open up its economy to tourism normalize relations with the occupying regime of Israel.
On Thursday, a United Nations special rapporteur called on the member states of the UN Human Rights Council to pressure Saudi Arabia to free women activists, four months before the Arab kingdom is to hold the 2020 G20 Riyadh summit.
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, made the call during a speech to the council in Geneva.
The Saudi regime should release "prisoners of conscience, women, human rights defenders that are currently in prison for demanding the right to drive,” she said.
Saudi authorities put at least a dozen prominent women’s activists behind bars in 2018 as the regime lifted a ban on women driving cars.
The activists were arrested as part of a broader plan of crackdown on dissent that extended to even clerics and intellectuals.
According to Reuters, several of the arrested women have said that they had gone through torture and been the victim of sexual assault in detention.
Saudi Clerics Condemn
A group of Saudi Shia clerics on Thursday strongly condemned Riyadh-owned Asharq al-Awsat daily newspaper for insulting Iraq’s most prominent cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.
"The status … of religious scholars is a matter of consensus among all Islamic doctrines and divine laws, and Islam stresses the need for Muslims to safeguard the standing and sanctity,” the clerics said in a joint statement.
"Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, May God bless him, is a religious authority. He is a revered and respected personality for the Shia community in our country and elsewhere in the world,” they said.
"He is a source of rationality for the entire Iraqi nation, irrespective of their faiths and sects. He has had a leading role in stabilizing Iraq and defending its sovereignty, and his famous [July 2014] fatwa to stand against terrorism and terrorists greatly contributed to the protection of Iraq against division and bloodshed.”
The clerics also denounced London-based Asharq al-Awsat’s insulting cartoon as "irresponsible, unethical, and contrary to the fundamentals of professional journalism.”
"It is actually an act that provokes discord, and threatens the stability of our country and nurtures sectarianism,” they said.
On Sunday, thousands of Iraqi protesters converged outside the gates of the heavily-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, which is home to several embassies and government offices, including parliament and the prime minister’s office, seeking to break into the Saudi embassy.
The participants demanded that the Iraqi government adopt a clear stance on the insult. Security forces used tear gas to disperse the protesters who were trying to enter the area.