A female rapper from Mecca is facing arrest in Saudi Arabia amid controversy and a racist backlash after releasing a music video expressing pride in being a woman from the holy city.
The artist Asayel, who is of Eritrean origin, upload the video Bint Makkah (“Girl from Mecca”) to her Youtube channel last week and now faces arrest as Saudi authorities announced the prosecution of those involved in the video’s production.
The Arabic rap video, praising Meccan woman as powerful and beautiful, is mainly filmed in a coffee shop and features shots of young women wearing hijab socialising and girls dancing to the song.
It has been deemed offensive by authorities after it elicited controversy in the conservative kingdom since having been widely shared on social media platforms, garnering 1.6 million views at the time of writing.
A number of comments, using an Arabic hashtag that translates as #You_Are_Not_Mecca’s_Girls, claim the women in the video do not represent Saudi Arabia’s female population with others making markedly racist remarks against Asayel’s African origins.
On behalf of the Saudi prince governing Mecca, regional authorities tweeted a decision to arrest the people behind the video. The announcement made use of the same hashtag included in racist posts.
The statement claims the song “offends the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca and contradicts the identity and traditions of its noble children”.
Others came to the Asayel’s defence, accusing authorities of racism and misogyny.
“I am from Makkah & the only thing I find offensive is ur racism, misogyny, and ur war on a young woman & her artistic expression of her culture & her people,” Saudi feminist artist and activist who goes by the name Ms. Saffaa said on Twitter.
“Had it been an affluent, well connected, light skinned Saudi influencer who created the video it would have been used in MBS’s propaganda as a sign of progress and reform. Double standards & hypocrisy at its best,” she added.
The New Arab could not confirm whether Asayel or anyone involved in the video have been arrested.
Despite touting strides in women’s rights under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, women’s lives in the kingdom remain policed.
A group of Saudi women activists – some early opponents to the since-lifted ban on women’s right to drive – remain imprisoned and reportedly subjected to torture.