Suhail al-Jameel, aged 23, was arrested in Saudi Arabia after posting a shirtless selfie wearing leopard-print shorts on his social media. The popular gay influencer, who has over 170,000 followers on Twitter alone, took to his public Snapchat and Twitter accounts on Sunday, October 13 to speak about the situation to his large following.
In the statement, Suhail explained that after he was detained he has now been charged with sharing nude photos online. Although the official charge is still unclear at this time, Suhail retweeted a follower’s comment that said he could face up to three years of jail time for posting what is considered to be nudity under Saudi Arabian public decency laws.
Suhail expressed his sadness and disappointment in these laws saying that even in 2019 LGBT+ people “are not welcome in Saudi Arabia, you must live in secret and can’t live in peace.”
He went on to criticise the country’s push for tourism despite the seeming lack of care for it’s own LGBT+ citizens, before urging others to not visit the country saying; “If you are gay and [have] money, stay away from Saudi Arabia there is no place for you here it is illegal to be who you are and it is sad.”
#FREESUHAIL #GAYLIVESMATTER #GAYRIGHTS #RiyadhSeason #lgbtqrights #LGBTQFREEDOM @NICKIMINAJ @ladygaga @Madonna @theweeknd @aliciakeys @rihanna @samsmith @LGBTQarabic @LGBTRightsActiv @LGBTFreetobe @nytimes @Turki_alalshikh pic.twitter.com/R6yqz2dB9d
— سهيل الجميل جداً (@suhail_y_y) October 13, 2019
Jumping to his defence, Suhail’s fans and followers have been tweeting under the hashtag #FreeSuhail, in order to bring awareness to what is happening in Saudi Arabia as well as sharing their own personal stories.
Many shared their own similar experiences of fear and intolerance.
#freesuhail Most of us live behind masks just to be safe from ever getting bullied or harassed. It saddens me to have to live as someone that isn’t my true self ): 💔 Depression is real in our community.
— Faisal 🍭. (@F9oLY17) October 13, 2019
Being gay in Saudi means living a double life, living in disguise, living in horror, living in total confusion.#freesuhail
— Sultan (@Sultan12034047) October 14, 2019
While others spoke out about these hypocritical laws which seem to only apply to some people and not others.
— Shafa ٣١ ♀ ∇ (@Shafax6) October 13, 2019
Despite the large outpouring of support for Suhail, he is receiving an equally large amount of criticism and homophobic comments under the #FreeSuhail hashtag, with a lot of people saying that he knew Saudi Arabia’s laws and should not have violated them in the first place.
If you don’t like what SA gives you, then leave. Don’t forget you’re in religion area, And since when we have lgbtq freedom? Don’t be shocked if no one stand beside you, if this is so normal for us, you won’t be in jail right now. #FREESUHAIL
— A R E E Z Y (@Areej_AL7arbi) October 13, 2019
#freesuhail as long as you know the rules you have to respect them it ain’t US or any country it’s a country ruled by a religion we’re proud that we have own rules not like the others the rules ain’t new take your sickness out of our pure country,even your mother don’t want you
— superman (@_tii55) October 13, 2019
Every country has its own rules. If you don’t respect them you are gonna be punished, that’s it.Not about human beings and their rights.
He just broke laws nothing more.
ONLY LAWS AND RULES
You all have to respect Saudi rules as you do outside. As others do in theirs #freesuhail
— Donut🍩 (@ChoDonut) October 13, 2019
Saudi Arabia’s recent addition to these “public decency laws”, that Suhail is being detained in violation of, were implemented last month and aim to crack down on “expressions of Western values.”
Similar public morality laws have been used in countries such as Egypt and Palestine to specifically target LGBT+ people. One such instance of this was when Egyptian authorities jailed 17 people after a rainbow Pride flag was waved at a Mash’rou Leila concert
A viral video of two women swimming in swimsuits in the Red Sea that have seemingly not faced arrest for this action gave some hope that the strictness in the enforcement of Saudi Arabia’s morality laws was relaxing slightly. However, Suhail’s recent arrest suggests that those who violate the new policies will continue to face prosecution in the country where homosexuality is a death penalty offence.
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