02/26/2020, 11.00
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Mecca: Saudi rapper arrested for celebrating the women of Mecca, 'beautiful and powerful'

Eritrean singer Asayel Slay is targeted by the governor of the holy city of Islam. The video enhances their courage and defines them as "cotton candy". For the authorities "it offends customs and traditions" and "contradicts identity and traditions". The controversy between the artist's critics and defenders breaks out online.

Mecca (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Saudi authorities allegedly stopped and detained a local musician and rapper for celebrating the women of Mecca - the holy city of Islam - in a video, calling them "beautiful and powerful ". In the front row of the repression campaign, the governor of the city, who cried out for the arrest of Asayel Slay and the other people involved in the production of the video.

In a music video relaunched online and entitled "The girls of Mecca", the artist wearing the traditional veil and a large pair of glasses to hide his face enhances the courage of the women who live in the holy city and defines them as "cotton candy ". In a note relaunched on social media, the local governor Prince Khalid bin Faisal "ordered the arrest" of all the people responsible for the song that "offends customs and traditions" and "contradicts identity and traditions".

In the song, which has been removed from the artist's YouTube channel and which is now off-line, Asayel Slay describes the pride of belonging to a city he calls home. " Our respect to other girls but the Mecca girl is sugar candy,” a hijab-wearing Slay raps in the clip, filmed in a cafe with both young girls and boys as backup dancers.

The video and the harsh response from the governor triggered a controversy on social media, with the internet users divided between those who condemn and those who defend the right to freedom  of expression. " Who gave this foreigner the right to speak about Saudi Arabian women in general and specifically about girls of Mecca?" it reads in a tweet. "The whole area is sacred. Ruled by Islamic law. It's not made for trash music,”adds another user.

Others defend the singer, accusing the Saudi government of faking openings by inviting international artists to the country, and then requesting his arrest for their music. "Sad affair" writes a commentator, according to whom "#AsayelSlay celebrates music and life in a positive way" and now "is in trouble with the Saudi police". This, the message concludes, is "madness".

According to a local source, relaunched by the Saudi newspaper Erem, "the artist was arrested" on February 20 last and held for a few days, before being released on the evening of 24. However, at the moment it is not clear whether "the release is outright" or if it remains "under investigation by the judiciary " pending further developments.

Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute Sunni monarchy, based on a Wahhabi fundamentalist view of Islam.

Over the past two years, the Crown Prince’s social reforms included granting women the right to drive cars and to attend sporting events in designated areas of stadiums.

However, the authorities have also cracked down on senior officials, business people, activists and critical voices, most notably in the Jamal Khashoggi affair, raising questions about the real extent of change.


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