The controversy over the new Saudi-backed golf league came to a head last week when the championship match organized by Donald Trump was hosted at his namesake course in New Jersey.
But aside from tantalizing coverage by the fashion press, little attention was paid to a fashion show on W 23rd Street in Manhattan, another aspect of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing efforts to portray itself as modern and progressive.
“Saudi Heritage; Fashion Show Past, Present and Future”, reads the flyer distributed by a well-groomed young American at the entrance.
For Americans, and especially for New Yorkers, the Saudi past goes back two decades to 9/11. The entrance to another gallery, the 9/11 Memorial Museum, just over two kilometers south of the current fashion show, displays photos of the 19 hijackers, including 17 Saudis, as well as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. An FBI report released earlier this year found that “there is a 50/50 chance” that Saudi intelligence agent Omar al-Bayoumi “had prior knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.” At the time of the attack, the report said, al-Bayoumi was being paid by Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. The question that remains unanswered is whether Bandar knows that al-Bayoumi provided logistical support to the first hijackers and two planes that arrived in America in 2000.
The recent Saudi past is reflected in another report, the report of the US Director of National Intelligence on the death and demolition of a bone saw. Washington PostAuthor Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
The summary of the February 2021 report reads: “We estimate that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, has approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to arrest or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi .” In the kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Mohammed bin Salman’s protection group in the operation, and support for the crown prince to use violent measures to silence opponents abroad, including Khashoggi.
The summary adds: “As of 2017, the crown prince has had absolute control over the kingdom’s security and intelligence services, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the crown prince’s consent.”
With the entire kingdom under his control, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is heading toward a future described on an official government website, “Saudi Vision 2030.”
“A road map drawn by His Highness the Crown Prince to harness the powers God has given us – our strategic location, our investment power and our position at the heart of the Arab and Islamic worlds,” the website said. “The whole focus of the Kingdom and our leaders is to use our potential to achieve our ambitions.”
He continues: “Since the vision was launched, we have built a foundation on which unprecedented reforms to the operating model of the public sector, the economy and society as a whole have been carried out. Lay this foundation for future success.
The reforms included a moderate easing of restrictions on what women could wear in public. There has also been a modest expansion of the roles they can play in the workplace. A notable example is the appointment in 2019 of the first woman to serve as a foreign envoy. Princess Rima bint Bandar Al Saud was appointed Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in February 2019. Her father was in the same position at the time of 9/11, and her appointment can be seen as a way to tell Americans who described accomplices that he was held responsible for the attack. Maybe it was just indifference.
The timing of the appointment suggests a different message coming five months after the Khashoggi massacre at a Saudi consulate in Turkey. Using a bone saw on an ultimately harmless critic may have led many to view Mohammed bin Salman as a murderous barbarian, but there was also this first date for Saudi women. And with Vision 2030, Mohammed bin Salman said there will be more firsts and big things in the future.
On July 26, the Saudi Fashion Authority, under the auspices of the Saudi Ministry of Culture, inaugurated the Saudi Fashion 100 Brands Exhibition in New York City, which included 1,500 Saudi designers. Ambassador Princess Reema, a figure associated with the Saudi past, present and future, gave a speech at the opening of the 12-day show.
“The collections you see here are inspired by the Arabian Peninsula, but they are made for the world,” said Rima. Creativity is not born in one country. Culture is defined by no boundaries. And what you’re about to see is a symbol that has nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with governments, but rather with the human spirit.
Late Friday morning, West 23rd Street was bustling with New Yorkers and tourists, but they walked past the young man with a pile of flyers before the Saudi fashion show. Besides the staff, there were only three people inside, including a journalist who put on a mask when they entered.
“Masks are optional,” said a security guard at the entrance.
Neither the guard nor the two women at the check-in desk were wearing face coverings. But the whole exhibition was just another big cover. Or perhaps the show would have been better seen as a golden bone saw; Dress up enhanced by a barbaric killer. There are striking variations on traditional abayas, one that a woman would want even if the religious police stopped forcing her to wear skirt-like dresses. The first section of the show had “SWEEP” printed on the wall in big black letters. The mannequins throughout the show do not have facial features, so the veil is not a problem.
The show also includes menswear, including elegant clothes from a fashion line called JINA led by a woman, Princess Noura bint Talal Al Saud. An explanatory note states that the piece was inspired by what is “usually worn during the ‘Majdi Al-Ardah, the dance of war and victory'”.
Certain people who have lost their loved ones at the World Trade Center or who fail to commit suicide are thinking that more than 17 Saudis have cherché à dancer le Majdi Ardha en cet horrible mardi matin d’il ya 20 ans que nous noagé sommes noer forgette . Among those who want the Saudis held accountable are members of the 9/11 Justice group, which gathered Friday morning outside a public library near the Trump golf club that hosted the Saudi-backed LIV tournament. They gathered some distance from the main entrance to the club to make it clear that there is not so much to protest as to tell the truth about the efforts of Saudi “sport” and those involved in it.
Juliette Scozo was the third of the four speakers. She was 4 years old when her father, firefighter Dennis Scozo, became one of the 19 men from his hazardous unit who died at the World Trade Center. She is now 25 years old and a medical student.
“How much money does it take to turn your back on your country and the American people?” she asked. “The 9/11 families would give any amount of money to see our loved ones again, just to get one last hug, a chat and another round of golf.”
The slain firefighter’s daughter was unaware of the Saudi fashion show until the Daily Beast reporter told her about it on Saturday.
“I had no idea,” she said. “But I know that in general [the Saudis] Try to change their image. And frankly, they should not be allowed to work on our land with impunity until we have accountability and justice.
She spoke of Saudi Arabia’s ongoing efforts to use its vast wealth to evade accountability.
“It’s quite shocking and annoying,” she said. “It’s been 20 years… and we’re still struggling. “
The fashion show ends on August 7. The Saudis will continue with the golf league and other efforts to destroy bones and trick us into forgetting what we should never have.
Anyone who wants New York fashion should try to get a shirt made by someone from Scauso. read:
“September 11 has no expiration date.”