Fact Check: Melania Trump did not defy King Salman by leaving her hair uncovered in Saudi Arabia

by Ezinne Ajoku


News making the rounds is that Melania Trump rejected Saudi Kingdom’s directive to wear a headscarf, as custom dictates that women should, on her visit to the oil rich country.

American media is flagellating Trump for allowing his wife do what he criticised Michelle Obama for doing during Obama’s condolence visit to the region in 2015.

Perhaps Trump did not know or didn’t care to know at the time that it is not required for visiting dignitaries to adorn the headscarf.

On social media, Americans are reminding Trump of his hypocrisy.


Another camp has taken time to broadcast that Melania is different from Michelle and Hillary because she’s been gutsy enough to stand up to intolerance or male domination by leaving her hair uncovered, even though she was required to. Pictures showing Michelle and Hillary wearing headscarves side by side Melania sell this narrative.




The problem is, this is fake news at its best.

First of all, neither Michelle Obama nor Hillary Clinton donned hairscarves in Saudi Arabia. They, too, left their hair uncovered.

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama participate in a delegation receiving line with new Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, fifth from left, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The president and first lady have come to expresses their condolences on the death of the late Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The Washington Post dubbed Michelle Obama’s decision “a bold political statement” at the time.

Hillary Clinton in Saudi Arabia

In fact, there has been a tradition of past U.S First Ladies going bare headed in Saudi Arabia. Laura Bush did same when she visited the Kingdom in 2006.

Moreover, the pictures circulating of Michelle and Hillary wearing headscarves were actually taken in Indonesia and Pakistan respectively.

Secondly, it is not a requirement for foreign visitors to wear a head scarf. According to Asma Uddin, director of strategy for the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom, Saudi Arabia’s dress code is technically unenforceable against foreigners.

Earlier this year, British prime minister Theresa May and German chancellor Angela Merkel also went without head coverings in Saudi Arabia, showing how common it is for high-level female visitors to skip wearing a headscarf or an abaya.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) stands next to Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud (R) before their official talks in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on April 30, 2017. (Photo by Bandar Algaloud / Saudi Kingdom Council / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Theresa May meets King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud of Saudi Arabia (left)

Aljazeera sums it up succinctly with this educational video.

So quit the political grandstanding, there’s nothing special about Melania going bare headed.

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