Angela Merkel rejects headscarf dress code in meetings with Saudi Arabia's King Salman

German Chancellor leaves head uncovered during talks on human rights and trade

Niamh McIntyre
Monday 01 May 2017 10:37 BST
Angela Merkel meets Saudi leaders without headscarf

German Chancellor Angela Merkel did not adhere to the strict Saudi Arabian dress code for women during talks with King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud on Sunday.

Saudi law generally requires women to wear a full-length robe and cover for their hair in public places, but Ms Merkel became the latest in a succession of female Western politicians to leave her hair uncovered on her visit to the Western city, Jeddah.

Theresa May declined to wear the traditional abaya costume on her visit to the country earlier this month, while Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama have also previously refused the protocol.

Last week, the German parliament voted for a draft law banning women working in some public sector roles from wearing burqas.

Ms Merkel has said that the full-face veil “should be banned, wherever it is legally possible."

The German Chancellor said she raised human rights concerns with Saudi leaders, such as the country’s system of capital punishment and its role in the Yemeni Civil War, which has displaced at least 2 million people, according to the United Nations.

As well as conferences with the country’s rulers, Ms Merkel also met with Saudi businesswomen.

"I have the impression that the country is in a phase of change and that a lot more is possible now than some years ago, but it's still a long way away from having achieved what we would understand as equality," she said.

Saudi Arabia is one of Germany’s largest trading partners in Middle East, and CEOs of major German companies have travelled with the government delegation to Saudi Arabia.

German newspaper Deutsche Welle reports that the country’s exports to Saudi Arabia were worth more than half a billion euros in 2016 alone.

The German-Saudi arms trade has been criticised by activists, opposition politicians and religious leaders, due to the country’s role in Yemen.

Germany also offers training to Saudi police, security forces and border guards.

The official Saudi Press Agency reported the two counties signed a number of memorandums to enhance cooperation in the fields of technology, energy, business and security.

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