A man was arrested in Saudi Arabia after a video was shared of him having breakfast with a woman.
In the video, the Egyptian national is eating breakfast with a female coworker clad in an all-black niqab and abaya.
The expatriate, identified by the name Bahaa, was arrested in the city of Jeddah on September 9th, after what the country’s labor ministry called “an offensive video” was posted to social media. The 30-second clip spread like wildfire in the Islamic conservative country and sparked outrage.
According to a local news outlet SaudiNews50, the woman has been arrested as well. However, no sources can be found verifying her whereabouts, which is just as troubling.
Part of the outrage was driven by Twitter where # مصري يفطر مع سعودية (which translates to “Egyptian man having breakfast with Saudi woman”) has been trending among users in Saudi Arabia and other parts of the Middle East.
Despite the ludicrous arrest, many fanatics are still calling for severe punishment. Some of the more colorful reactions have called for the woman to be punished just as, if not more, severely. Some have even villfied the company’s owner for “allowing such a thing to happen.”
Saudi Arabia is known for its sexist laws and only recently lifted its ban on women drivers. However, growing unrest within the Gulf Kingdom’s conservative sects has limited progress. Some of these zealots even point to King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s Vision 2030 initiative as part of the issue.
But this seems pretty par for the course in a nation that granted citizenship to a robot, instantly granting an inanimate object more civil rights than women.
The arrest comes as no surprise to critics who cite the incredibly strict laws about male-female interaction. Public spaces within Saudi Arabia are separated by gender and authorities go so far as to ask married couples for proof of marriage when they are out together.
These regulations extend to the work place where men and women are often barred from being in the same room. These regulations stand in contrast to attempts by the monarchy to integrate more women into the general labor force.
Following the arrests, the Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution released a pair of statements urging foreign nationals to “respect Saudi values, traditions, and feelings.” People who violate these laws face up to five years in prison for “[violating] public order, religious values, public morality, or the sanctity of personal life.”
For this amount of outrage, you would think Bahaa was responsible for murder. A Twitter user under the handle @h_i_h_i__q put it best when they said, “In any normal country this is considered as a personal business, but in Saudi Arabia this will lead you to the prison, and all the society will discuss your story. We are in the deep shit, somebody must help us!”
The real question is who will be there to help?
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