A female Saudi rap artiste identified as Asayel Slay is facing prison time after praising women as “powerful and beautiful” in a rap music video titled Bint Makkah (“Girl from Mecca”).
In the song, Asayel Slay raps about women in the city of Mecca (Islam’s holiest site).
“Our respect to other girls but the Mecca girl is sugar candy,” she sings in the video while men and women dance in a café.
The music video which was released on YouTube last week featured shots of young women wearing hijab socialising and girls dancing to the song.
حزنت على مكة 💔 pic.twitter.com/C7uK04O2as
— وليد (@bixwd) February 19, 2020
This however did not go well with the Saudi Arabian government as the governor of Mecca, Khaled al-Faisal, ordered that Slay, and those associated with the video, be arrested as the music video “offends the customs and traditions of the people of Mecca and contradicts the identity and traditions of its high-ranking children.”
أمير مكة #خالد_الفيصل يوجه بإيقاف المسؤولين عن إنتاج فيديو أغنية الراب ( بنت مكه ) الذي يسيء لعادات وتقاليد أهالي مكة ويتنافى مع هوية وتقاليد أبنائها الرفيعة.
.. تضمن توجيه سموه إحالتهم للجهات المختصه للتحقيق معهم وتطبيق العقوبات بحقهم.#لستن_بنات_مكه pic.twitter.com/zVqggEujfh
— إمارة منطقة مكة (@makkahregion) February 20, 2020
The music video did not show obscenities or use of drugs.
Asayel Slay’s account has been suspended and the video is no longer available on YouTube.
Although the crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began a reform programme in 2018, the kingdom has often been criticized for it’s repression and crackdown on freedom of expression.
The kingdom has allowed performances by Mariah Carey, the Black Eyed Peas, Sean Paul, Enrique Iglesias and David Guetta, amongst others.
“This is so typical of the Saudi government to do – bring western influencers to artwash the regime but attack real Saudi women who try to artistically express their cultural identities,” tweeted Amani Al-Ahmadi, who identifies herself as a Saudi-American feminist.
Last year, Nicki Minaj, who was set to perform at a festival in Saudi Arabia cancelled her performance due to concerns over human rights.
Minaj told the Associated Press in a statement that she came to the decision “after careful reflection”.
“While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression,” Minaj said.