Saudi women starts smoking in public to ‘complete’ their freedom

Saudi women starts smoking in public to ‘complete’ their freedom

Saudi women now drags on their electronic cigarette and exhales a cloud of smoke in the public.

“I feel that smoking in public is a part of exercising my newly won freedoms. I am happy that now that I can choose,” A 27-year-old Saudi woman who works for a private company in the capital told AFP.

In an era of social change in Saudi Arabia some women are accept cigarettes, shisha pipes or vaping smoking as a symbol of emancipation. Acting just like todays Western feminists of the early 20th century.

The sight of women smoking in public has become much more common in recent months, an unthinkable prospect before the introduction of sweeping reforms in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

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The kingdom’s ambitious de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has rolled out an array of economic and social innovations to project a moderate, business-friendly image.

Women are now allowed to drive, attend public sporting events and concerts, and obtain passports without the approval of a male guardian.

Rima, who started smoking two years ago, dismisses concerns about the harmful effects of tobacco, but is worried her family will find out.

She says she is prepared for a showdown.

“I won’t tell them that this is about my personality liberty, because they won’t understand that women are free to smoke like men,” said Rima, dressed in a traditional black abaya with gold embroidery matching the hijab that covered her hair.

Najla, 26, who like Rima asked to use a pseudonym, said that despite the rapid social changes, double standards still existed, and that it was still considered a “scandal and disgrace” if women smoked.

The only woman lighting up amid several tables of male smokers, she said she intended to “challenge society” and ignore the occasional dirty looks.

“My rights will be fully respected when my family accepts me as a smoker,” she said, recalling that a friend was sent to an addiction clinic when her parents found out about her smoking.

Najla started smoking while still a school student, and like her, up to 65 percent of female Saudi high schoolers smoke secretly, according to a 2015 study by the medical faculty at King Abdulaziz University cited by Arab News.

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