Sexual Harassment of Women at Saudi Festival Could Sabotage the Kingdom's Huge PR Efforts

Published December 23rd, 2019 - 06:52 GMT
Women Reporting Sexual Harassment in Saudi’s Middle Beast Festival. How does This Sabotage Saudi’s Huge PR Efforts? (AFP)
Women and men reported sexual harassment during Saudi's Middle Beast festival (AFP)

Dozens of women took to social media to report sexual harassment attacks during Saudi’s Middle Beast Festival taking place in the capital Riyadh, detailing groping and undressing attempts, with the police watching and not taking action.

In a video she posted on Snapchat, an American woman called out sexual harassment she experienced herself during the festival. Even though she described the event itself as 'creative', she was furious about the level of harassment she witnessed, including Saudi women in abayas and hijabs being groped and touched throughout the night.

Translation: "An American woman who attended the event says: I liked the festival but I hated the experience because of the unbelievable level of harassment. I didn't do anything provocative but even so, some people tried to grope me and feel me up. I saw women in abayas and hijabs being harassed and groped. Savages!"

Saudi women too expressed their shock at their experience during the festival, some vowing to never attend similar events until serious action is taken. Several attendees even suggested that some security forces just watched as the sexual attacks took place without taking action.

Additionally, a Saudi man posted a video in which he talked about being sexually harassed during the festival, saying that other men tried to kiss him, touch his leg and dance with him, prompting him to leave. 

While some Saudi men expressed their concern about the reported harassment incidents, some blamed women for going to the festival in the first place, saying that they deserved it by attending such festivals. Meanwhile others considered these claims to be fake stories that are part of a smear campaign.  

The debate on Saudi Arabia's social media resulted in strong backlash from international activists, who attacked Western celebrities and influencers that were invited to visit and perform in the conservative kingdom, as part of a campaign Saudi Arabia has launched to portray itself as a more liberal country.

Saudi has recently incentivised tourists with a lot of activities to take part in and landmarks to visit.

Despite this, activists drew attention to the country's violations against women's rights activists, LGBTQ communities, and political dissidents.

Celebrities and influencers who were criticized for attending and performing during the Middle Beast festival include David Guetta, Steve Aoki, Joan Smalls, Alessandro Ambrosio, Armie Hammer, and Ed Westwick.  


What’s worse than an all white @revolve influencer trip? Cashing big fat checks in exchange for #content creation (aka propaganda) to rehabilitate the image of Saudi Arabia, a country said to be causing “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”, according to the United Nations. According to anonymous sources, six-figure sums were offered for attendance and geo-tagged posts. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Following the government’s pre-meditated murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi in October 2018 , the arrest of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul in May 2018, the outing of a gay Saudi journalist and his partner who began receiving death threats from their families (homosexuality is a crime in Saudi Arabia and punishable by death), and countless other human rights abuses, a bevy of supermodels, influencers, celebrities, and musicians convened in Riyadh for the inaugural @mdlbeast . According to @hypebeast , the electronic music festival is “one of the most significant musical events the region has ever seen”. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Saudi Arabia has been spending billions to change its image in the west, but this is sure to be the most expensive campaign yet. In a series of Instagram stories posted by transgender model @teddy_quinlivan , it was revealed that fellow model @emrata had turned down the trip, evidently aware of the country’s human rights crisis. “It is very important to me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press. I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there”, said Ratajkowski in a statement to Diet Prada. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Unfortunately, not all shared the same sentiments. There are simply too many attendees to name. Dieters, feel free to tag any attendees you know of... just in case they haven’t been reading the news. • #propoganda #jamalkashoggi #humanrights #humanrightsabuse #lgbtq #lgbtqrights #freespeech #journalism #independent #womensrights #mdlbeast #edm #electronicmusic #supermodel #influencer #content #riyadh #emrata #emilyratajkowski #teddyquinlivan #model #celebrity #dj #electronicmusic #musicfestival #wtf #smh #government #corruption #dietprada

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