Expat in Saudi arrested for breakfasting with female co-worker

Published:  11 Sep at 6 PM
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Tagged: Australia
An Egyptian expat working in a Jeddah hotel was arrested after he videoed and uploaded his breakfast meeting with a female Saudi co-worker.

Although the woman was fully covered by a black Islamic niqab, the uploaded video caused outrage amongst ultra-conservative Arab Muslims, especially as the last few frames showed the female co-worker apparently feeding the expat. As a result, the Egyptian national has been arrested, with police citing a law which forces strict segregation in the workplace as well as in restaurants, coffee shops and other such venues. Also, women are forbidden from taking part in many activities unless they are accompanied by a male family member or guardian.

In addition to the expat’s arrest, the hotel’s owner has been summonsed for his failure to comply with government rules enforcing gender-segregated workplaces. Public prosecutors are urging all expats living and working in Saudi Arabia to respect and abide by the traditions and values underpinning Saudi society, The as yet unresolved incident comes during the much-publicised push by Crown Prince Mohammed to liberalise many aspects of Saudi society in order to encourage overseas investors as well as tourists. To date, the prince has allowed cinemas to reopen after 35 years and a number of mixed-gender concerts have been allowed.

Even so, the backlash against the video has highlighted the challenges inherent in the Prince’s efforts to modernise. Earlier this year, the Saudi Ministry of Sport closed a Riyadh women’s fitness centre after a promotional video showed one female client wearing normal gym clothes. In another incident, government officials sacked the head of the country’s Entertainment Ministry after a similar backlash against a circus featuring acrobatic artistes wearing tight leotards.
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