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PHOTOS: Female Leaders Besides Michelle Obama Who Didn’t Wear A Headscarf In Saudi Arabia

CREDIT: AP

Michelle Obama paid her respects for the late king of Saudi Arabia along with her husband Barack Obama on Tuesday.

There’s a lot of fuss over what Michelle Obama didn’t wear on a visit to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to offer condolences for the country’s late King Abdullah along with her husband.

Headlining a story on the First Lady’s choice to bare her hair, the Washington Post wrote, “Make no mistake: Michelle Obama just made a bold political statement in Saudi Arabia.” Bloomberg claimed that her choice of attire “quietly but forcefully represented women in a land that refuses to grant them to many rights.”

It’s undoubtedly true that Saudi Arabia greatly impinges on basic rights for women. Saudi women are expected to wear long sleeved, full-length abayas and cover their hair with a headscarf. The country’s male guardianship laws keep them from moving about freely without a male relative, and women are further barred from driving.

Foreign women, however, are not legally required to wear the abaya or headscarf. Still, the U.S. State Department advises American women against going with them. “Women who choose not to conform to this dress code face a risk of confrontation by Mutawwa [Saudi Arabia’s religious police] and possible detention/arrest,” it cautions.

Michelle Obama didn’t heed that warning, but she’s in good company.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel goes bare-headed in Saudi Arabian King's Palace May 2010.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel goes bare-headed in Saudi Arabian King’s Palace May 2010.

CREDIT: AP

No scarf for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, right, and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Hamad Al-Sabah in March 2012.

No scarf for U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal, right, and Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled al-Hamad Al-Sabah in March 2012.

CREDIT: AP

First Lady Laura Bush had tea sans headscarf with Saudi King Abdullah at the Riyadh Airport in May 2008.

First Lady Laura Bush had tea sans headscarf with Saudi King Abdullah at the Riyadh Airport in May 2008.

CREDIT: AP

Although she did try one one on in a visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2007.

Although she did try one one on in a visit to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in 2007.

CREDIT: AP

Condoleezza Rice arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia without a scarf in hand (or on head) in July 2007.

Condoleezza Rice arrived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia without a scarf in hand (or on head) in July 2007.

CREDIT: AP

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) praised Michelle Obama on Twitter for “standing up for women” by not wearing what he called, a “Sharia-mandated head-scarf in Saudi Arabia.” But, as The Hill pointed out, the AP article he linked to in his tweet clearly stated that the headscarf is not a requirement for foreign women visiting the country.

There were also reports that the “first lady shocked some in the ultra-conservative country” by shaking hands with the newly-anointed King of Saudi Arabia.

It’s really not that shocking. Several female heads of state and U.S. secretaries of state have grasped kingly Saudi fingers.

To boot, here’s Condoleeza Rice shaking hands with Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal, a prince, back in 2008.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shook hands with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal after a signing ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in May 2008.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shook hands with Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal after a signing ceremony in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in May 2008.

CREDIT: AP

While there were some 1,500 tweets using a hashtag that translates as #Michelle_Obama_unveiled, that’s far from a “backlash” in a country with 2.4 million Twitter users.