Saudi woman could face two years in jail for running on stage and hugging male singer

Conservative kingdom is undergoing rapid social reform, but mixing of unrelated men and women is still forbidden and lawbreakers face harsh punishments

Saudi Arabia woman runs on stage and hugs singer Majid al-Mohandis

A Saudi woman has been arrested after running onto a stage and hugging a male singer mid-performance, according to local media.

Popular dual national Iraqi-Saudi performer Majid al-Mohandis was approached by an unidentified woman during a show in the western city of Taif on Friday, Okaz newspaper and a state news agency said.

Videos taken by other concertgoers, widely shared on social media, show a woman in an abaya and niqab running up to Mr Mohandis and throwing her arms around his neck as a security guard struggles to remove her from the stage. The onlookers mostly cheer and clap and Mr Mohandis keeps singing as she is led away.

The incident is unusual in the deeply conservative country, which has only just started letting women attend events such as music concerts and sports matches. It is forbidden for women and men whom are not related to mix in public.

The woman has been detained at the Taif Foundation for Women's Care pending an investigation, a statement from Mecca province police on Sunday said.

The public prosecutor is deciding whether to charge the woman, whose name and age have been withheld, under a new anti-harassment act introduced earlier this year, police said.

If found guilty, she could face two years in jail and a fine of up to 100,000 Saudi riyals (£20,000).

Mr Mohandis has not commented on the incident.

Saudi Arabia is undergoing unprecedented social and economic reforms since powerful crown prince Mohammad bin Salman was appointed heir to the throne last year – but the penalties for those who break the law are still very harsh.

While last month the kingdom finally lifted a prohibition on women driving, reopened cinemas and relaxed rules on female attendance at public events, women who disobey the country’s male guardianship system or the law on modest clothing can still face lengthy prison sentences and large fines.

Saudi rapper Leesa A releases song about women being allowed to drive

Critics also point out the ‘Vision 2030’ reforms, designed to wean the kingdom off its reliance on oil, do not stretch as far as addressing the kingdom’s use of capital punishment and the country’s lack of freedom of speech.

Hundreds of members of the ruling branch of the royal family’s political and business rivals, as well as women’s rights activists, have been detained without charge since Mohammed bin Salman became crown prince in June 2017.

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