Why Saudi entertainment reverberation raises harassment fears

More than 700,000 revellers flocked to MDLBeast's Soundstorm music festival outside Riyadh

More than 700,000 revellers flocked to MDLBeast’s Soundstorm music festival outside Riyadh

As one of the substantial music planned social occasion in the Middle East was taking place in Saudi Arabia over the past few days, the festival’s organizer pledged to take extra steps to attempt to stop sexual and other harassment at the venue on the outskirts of Riyadh.

Mass entertainment events are no longer an originality in the once self-denying kingdom, still there have been reports by local and foreign women that they have faced intimidation at them – unspecified amount of it documented on video.

The scenes still appear nearly bizarre in Saudi Arabia – ravers suffer violent involuntary contraction of the muscles in the rhythm of ear-splitting beats in a country where exactly a few years ago unexpectedly performing music in public was contentious. MDLBeast’s Soundstorm occation thudded out for four days,accompanied by hundreds of thousands in the audience dancing to a number of the biggest DJs in the world.

Men and women were as well able to mix in ways that were once unimaginable.

Men and women are allowed to mix at concerts, something which was previously banned

Eminent performers from around the world had to consider the kingdom’s human rights history before thinking about to attend – with campaigners saying that those who did so were assisting to cover-up the image of a oppressive government.

Notwithstanding they were not the only ones who thought twice before going – there have been revelations of recurrent sexual persecution of women at the unparalleled series of large entertainment events that are now a frequent feature of life in Riyadh and somewhere else. A number of videos have gone viral in recent years of groups of men sexually abuse and harassing women.

MDLBeast set afloat a crusade called Respect and Reset to step up protection for women at its events, pledging zero tolerance. Some of those who attended over the past week have commended their efforts.

Since 2018, the Saudi authorities, too, have moved to criminalize harassment, with hefty fines and prison sentences of up to five years.

MDLBeast said Sandstorm was the biggest music festival in the region

Even so a number of Saudi women have communicated the BBC to say that they don’t accept adequate action is being taken. None of the women felt secured concerning giving their identities.

They said that they had either themselves encountered harassment at mass entertainment venues or aware of other women who had.

One said that online comments on the videos of harassment usually blamed the women – and that female victims were as probable to be punished by Saudi law as the offenders.

Another said the authorities only appear to react solemnly when a alien was involved. She added that little regard was given when a Saudi woman was the affected, still that there was a big exclamation and severe punishment when it was a female traveler.

A third said that local women were not given any real protection – that there was a sense that they were deceitful, surprisingly somehow guilty, exactly by going. If young women reported occurrence, she said, they could face castigation from within their own families and communities.

She asserted that a recent cautioning from public security against filming with mobiles at entertainment venues was focused at stopping incidents of harassment from being recorded.

‘Superficial change’

Those close to Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and his clique say that these occurrences are the unavoidable growing pains of a country amid a major transformation from the tyranny of a profoundly traditionalist interpretation of Islam to a more broad-minded society – epitomized for many by the removal of the once omnipresent ethics police from the streets.

The speed of change is set to accelerate in chasing of achieving the goals laid out in the prince’s Vision 2030 project – an immensely aspiring plan to change Saudi Arabia by moving the economy out from dependence on oil, at the same time restructuring its society to match the expectations of the young.

Saudi women have seen more freedoms under Crown Prince Mohammed, including being allowed to drive

Supporters of the prince say this procedure is still at infancy – and call for forbearance till such changes become adjusted.

Nevertheless the Saudi women who communicated the BBC asked how all-inclusive this strategy was in actuality – alleging that women’s hopes and fears were still only being apparently addressed.

They said that the matter of harassment was an example of this – discouraging many Saudi women from taking part in a extensive variety of events that were seemingly focused at opening Saudi Arabia up not just to a new world of tourists and influencers, still to its own citizens.

Related Topics

Women,   Sexual harassment,      Saudi Arabia

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