About two dozen people were arrested in Sudan on Thursday night as they emerged from a fashion show. Those arrested included male and female amateur models as well as make-up artists and others who had provided the clothes.
So far, there has been no official explanation from the Public Order Police, whose role includes enforcing "morality". All those arrested were released on Friday but some have been told to report back to the police today, and it is thought they could be charged with "indecency".
Last year, a group of 13 women were arrested in Sudan for wearing trousers in public. Ten pleaded guilty and were subsequently flogged. One of them, journalist Lubna Hussein, contested the charge amid a welter of international publicity. She was eventually fined and was jailed when she refused to pay. She was released after one night in jail when the journalists' union paid the fine on her behalf.
Arrests of this kind are common in northern Sudan – police statistics show that 43,000 women were arrested in Khartoum province in 2008 for clothing offences.
According to one fashion show participant quoted by Reuters, "there was nothing bad about the clothes" on display on Thursday night. "There were wedding dresses, traditional Sudanese clothes, suits, clothes from local shops and tobs [traditional Sudanese wraparound dresses]."
Fashion shows are not unknown in Sudan, though they are often held in private. Thursday's show – held in a popular club in Khartoum – was unusual in that both male and female models shared the catwalk.
AFP quotes the brother of one a particpant as saying there was no single reason for the arrests.
"Some people were arrested because they did not have a permit to organise a party, others because they partied beyond 11:00 pm and others were detained for apparently drinking alcohol."
Posted by Brian Whitaker, 27 June 2010.