A young Saudi woman is reportedly facing prosecution for dancing during the ongoing Riyadh Season festival. According to media reports, a Saudi public prosecutor has ordered the arrest of the woman in question after a video capturing her dance moves circulated on social media.
The woman, who was wearing the traditional abaya and niqab (robe and face veil) in the video, has been accused of "disrupting public taste" at the seasonal festival.
The incident reportedly took place during Riyadh Season, which runs from October to December and covers 12 main zones of the capital and six branches around the city. The festival includes a wide array of artistic, musical, and cultural events.
With the launch of the festival, Riyadh Season shared a table to spread awareness on the different violations and their respective penalties for those attending the festival. These violations cover indecent acts including "misbehavior of sexual nature," for which an $800-fine is imposed.
In the video shared on social media, the woman can be seen dancing to hip-hop music amidst a mixed-gender crowd, which can be heard cheering her on and expressing astonishment at her bold performance.
Several videos of various male attendees at Riyadh Season dancing have been shared on social media. However, the video of the woman above drew the most attention and sparked legal intervention due to the social and legal restrictions enforced on women in the conservative kingdom.
The penalty that will be imposed on the woman in question - once she is identified - is yet to be seen.
In recent years, several people in Saudi Arabia have been prosecuted, fined, and jailed for dancing in public.
In a viral incident that made headlines across the Arab world in 2017, a Saudi singer was arrested after dabbing at a live concert. At the time, Saudi officials warned against dabbing and claimed the dance represents the act of sniffing drugs. That same year, Jeddah police arrested a teenager who transformed a local crosswalk in Tahlia street into a dance floor just to perform the Macarena. A media spokesperson for the police said the teen was taken to custody for "obstructing traffic" and "violating public principles." Though it was reported the young boy would face a trial, he was later released with a warning.
In 2018, the Kiki challenge - which consists of people jumping out of moving cars and dancing to Canadian rapper Drake's song In My Feelings - took over the Arab world. But it also got one unfortunate woman arrested in Saudi Arabia's Al Khobar region.
In a bid to boost its tourism and entertainment sectors, Saudi Arabia has upped its entertainment offerings and loosened constraints on attendees, especially foreign ones.
Over the past year, the kingdom has hosted a number of events, mainly concerts and sporting competitions, and welcomed tourists wishing to attend them with minimal hassle. Such events have seen the kingdom loosen its gender-segregation regulations, allowing men and women to enjoy the festivities side by side, Riyadh Season is a prime example.