Gay influencer arrested in Saudi Arabia over shirtless selfie

Suhail al-Jameel is facing up to three years of jail time after being detained under Saudi Arabian public decency laws.

Suhail al-Jameel arrested in Saudi Arabia
Image Source: Suhail al-Jameel is facing up to three years of jail time after being detained under Saudi Arabian public decency laws.

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.”

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. 

While others spoke out about these hypocritical laws which seem to only apply to some people and not others.

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. 

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.

© 2019 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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