German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen annoyed Saudi Arabians this week when she refused to wear traditional Muslim attire during her official visit to the kingdom, The Independent reported on Wednesday.
Von der Leyen shunned the abaya, the black full length dress that covers the entire body but not the face, during her diplomatic visit in Riyadh, according to the report.
The defense minister, who is a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party and the first woman in German history to hold the defense portfolio, was meeting Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al Saud during her visit.
“Of course, I respect the customs and customs of a country. I strive to comply with such rules. But for me there are limits to the way I adapt to the country,” she later told the German Bild magazine.
“I do not put on a headscarf and I wear trousers,” said von der Leyen, who added, “No woman in my delegation has to wear the abaya. Being able to choose your own clothes is a right for both men and women alike. “
She stressed, “It annoys me, when women travelling with women are pressured into wearing the abaya.”
While the German minister’s decision not to cover her head did not cause any international incidents, Saudi Arabians took to Twitter to condemn her.
“The German Defense Minister: not wearing the hijab in Saudi was deliberate. This is an insult to Saudi Arabia,” read one tweet.
The Independent noted that female politicians are often excused from covering their hair while visiting Saudi Arabia.
First Lady Michelle Obama, Merkel, Hillary Clinton, Condoleeza Rice and former First Lady Laura Bush have all done the same, it added.
Last year, Saudi television blurred Michelle Obama due to the fact that she did not wear Islamic attire when visiting the kingdom with her husband following the death of King Abdullah.
Saudi Arabia is notorious for its violation of human rights in general and specifically of women, including a longstanding ban on driving.
In addition to the driving ban, women are governed by guardianship laws that give men final say over aspects of their lives like marriage, travel and higher education.
Despite its violation of human rights, Saudi Arabia was elected to hold a seat on the UN Human Rights Council several years ago.