Saudi religious police arrested after online furore

Published: February 23, 2016
PHOTO: albawaba

PHOTO: albawaba

RIYADH: Members of Saudi Arabia’s religious police have been arrested for allegedly brutalising a young woman outside a Riyadh shopping mall, local media reported on Tuesday.

The young woman’s case, filmed and put on line two weeks ago, led to a wave of indignation on the Internet.

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Video purportedly shows members of the religious police, who enforce Islamic morality, chasing two women and then roughly handling one of them whose black abaya robe opened to reveal her leg.

The Asharq al-Awsat and Okaz dailies quoted the interior ministry as saying “the individuals implicated in this assault were arrested for interrogation”.

The reports did not say how many members of the religious police were detained. The agency is officially known as the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Mutawaa).

It was not clear why the religious police had been chasing the women.

Mutawaa have often been accused of abuses.

They enforce a strict segregation of the sexes and have traditionally ensured that women cover themselves from head-to-toe when in public.

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They also patrol shops to make sure they are shuttered during prayer times.

But the officers do not have a particularly noticeable presence in many parts of the Saudi capital.

In 2013, religious policemen were arrested after their patrol car crashed into another vehicle during a chase that left two men dead.

Public opinion is divided over the role of the religious police.

After the latest incident, many online commentators called for the abolition of the bearded enforcers, but a large number of others defended their role.

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