NIQAB DAILY ON SAUDI TV
THEY CAN’T GET ENOUGH!
“The face is not the only way to build a relationship,”
explains Ms Barqi, speaking to BBC Arabic.”
Mind numbing societal retardation to the umpteenth power. The Saudis know how to deliver it in spades on a daily basis. Just when you think that you’ve seen it all, they dish up more. KGS
Until recently you would never have seen women presenting television programmes dressed from head to toe in the niqab or burqa. But on the Saudi religious channel Awtan TV it has now become the norm.
Female broadcasters at the station are draped in the all-enveloping dresses, which are usually black and also cover their faces.
The work environment too is very different. Male technical assistants do not enter the studio while the women are presenting.
There are more than 60 religious channels across the Middle East. Some allow women to present programmes without being fully covered or dressed in black.
Others have no women presenters at all.
Awtan TV decided to take a unique approach. The station was launched in 2008, and last month it set a precedent by allowing women to present, but only on the condition that they wear the niqab.
Ola al-Barqi anchors a breakfast show, as well as a quiz show for girls called Mosabqat Banat.
A key element of the programme is the relationship built between presenter, contestants and the audience – something that might be more difficult if the presenter is totally covered up.
“The face is not the only way to build a relationship,” explains Ms Barqi, speaking to BBC Arabic.
“We’re always receiving calls from viewers in various countries encouraging us to keep doing what we do.”
And, as Ms Barqi points out, women are not just confined to the studio at Awtan TV.
“We report from the field in the niqab and it does not stop us from doing anything.”