Saudi Arabia’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, known as Haia, the kingdom’s religious police, has decreed a stricter dress code for women in the province of Ha’il.
Motlaq Al-Nabit, spokesperson for the Haia in Ha’il, said Wednesday that “the Haia men will intervene to force women to cover their eyes, especially tempting ones.”
The Haia enforces Sharia (Islamic law) in Saudi Arabia and is responsible for supervising public spaces to ensure the separation of sexes, following strict dress codes, and other conduct claimed to be ordered by Islam.
A strict translation of the authority’s name from Arabic would be the Committee for the Ordering (not promotion) of Virtue.
Known to be the kingdom’s second most powerful political body after the ruling Al-Saud family, the Haia's policemen are feared in Saudi streets.
Due to the nature of their job, Haia men may approach and arrest anyone they deem as breaking their rules, even if they are as ambiguous as inciting "fitna," or temptation.
In 2010, Saudi citizen Atallah Al-Rashidi clashed with a Haia member in Ha’il when the Haia member insisted Al-Rashidi’s wife cover her eyes. The scuffle ended with the policeman stabbing Al-Rashidi twice, leading to his hospitalisation.
The case was taken to court and after five months the Haia member was declared innocent and Atallah sentenced to nine months in jail and 350 lashes for “arrogance”.
It is not clear if any standards will be established to separate tempting or provocative eyes from normal ones, nor whether the decree will be implemented on a national level or in Ha’il alone.