CurrentMiddle East

Saudi Officials Call for Arrest of Female Rapper

When it was announced that Saudi officials were calling for the woman’s arrest, many activists took to Twitter to share their disdain and to comment on what they saw as racism.

Saudi officials have ordered the arrest of rapper Asayel Slay, after she released a music video for her song “Bint Mecca” or “Girl from Mecca”. 

The video shows her rapping in a cafe, along with a group of children dancing. Saudi officials stated that the video was offensive to the custom and traditions of Mecca.

In the video the artist, who identifies herself as Asayel Slay, raps about women from Mecca being more “powerful and beautiful” than others, and about her pride in being from the holy city.

She raps: “A Mecca girl is all you need/Don’t upset her, she will hurt you. With her, you can complete the Sunna [get married]/Your life with her will become Paradise”.

The video has now been taken down and her account has been suspended. 

On Thursday the governor of Mecca tweeted the order for the people behind the video to be arrested. He used the hashtag: “They’re not the girls of Mecca”.

Social media storm

Social media had reacted strongly to the video when it was originally posted. It was widely shared along with the hashtag #Mecca_Girl_Represents_Me. 

However, others criticised the rapper, often using racist language: “Enough of this depravity,” one user said. “I hope the punishment for this African woman will be imprisonment then deporting her back to her country.”

When it was announced that Saudi officials were calling for the woman’s arrest, many activists took to Twitter to share their disdain and to comment on what they saw as racism.

One stated: “She was covered, she didn’t say anything offensive. Their problem with her is that she is black, they don’t want to be represented by a black Saudi. If a white Arab person from another Arab country claimed to be from Hijaz they would clapping.”

Others questioned the double standard of inviting other rappers to the country to perform, but at the same time ordering the arrest of Asayel Slay. 

Amani Al-Ahmadi, a Saudi-American feminist, tweeted: “This is so typical of the Saudi government to do – bring western influencers to artwash the regime but attack real Saudi women who try to artistically express their cultural identities”.

Nicki Minaj, along with other artists, have been invited to perform in the kingdom. However Minaj eventually pulled out, stating that she did so to support the “rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression”.

(Double) Vision 2030

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been attempting to transform the image of Saudi Arabia, as part of his Vision 2030 for the country. 

In 2018, Saudi Arabia lifted its decade-old driving ban on women driving as part of this approach of reform. A Saudi female rapper Leesa A posted a video celebrating the country’s revocation of the prohibition, which, unlike Asayel Slay’s video, was generally well received. 

However, Saudia Arabia also arrested and detained at least a dozen women’s rights activists around the same time, many of whom had long campaigned for the ending of the driving ban. Human rights groups have alleged that at least three of the women were held in solitary confinement and were subjected to torture, including electric shocks, flogging, and sexual assault.

Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the most prominent activists and who has been detained since May 2018, was offered release from prison in return for denying that she was tortured. She refused, and remains in captivity.

Amnesty International has also criticised the kingdom’s human rights record, calling it “abysmal” and said that it is conducting “a sweeping crackdown against critics of the government”.

While Salman promotes his sanitised version of Saudi Arabia, it is therefore worth noting that the suffering of those who have spoken out against his regime, or even those who posted a video of themselves rapping, continues today. 

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