Saudi authorities have arrested a teenager for flirting with an American vlogger online, claiming that the boy may be in violation of the country’s draconian cyber crime laws.
Known to his internet fans as “Abu Sin,” or “toothless” in Arabic (a self-assigned moniker that pokes fun at his gap tooth), the young Saudi managed to find minor fame in his hometown after his playful communications with 21-year-old California-based YouTuber Christina Crockett went viral. The two used the online video service YouNow to exchange pleasantries and share goofy hand-gestures. What made the videos so entertaining was the fact that the boy and girl on screen appeared smitten with each other despite the language-gap; Crockett doesn’t speak Arabic and Abu Sin doesn’t speak much English. And yet, the flirtatious pair carried on chatting, to the amusement of their fans.
But late last month, Abu Sin failed to post any new videos. Nobody knew quite what happened until a video surfaced showing the world what had become of the cheery Saudi teenager.
“Footage posted online on Sept. 25 purports to show his arrest, and Abu Sin’s YouNow site, on which he used to post almost daily, had not been updated for 13 day,” reports AP.
After a couple of months enjoying be just a regular teenager, Abu Sin became the victim of Saudi Arabia’s Islamist conservative legal framework. In other words, the Kingdom of Saud is where fun goes to die. Literally.
Abu Sin now faces up to three years in jail for what Saudi media outlets have called “unethical behavior.” According to the country’s cyber crime law, individuals can be punished for producing material that undermines the puritanical social order. In addition, he may face an additional penalty for violating the kingdom’s strict version of Islam.
“The teenager could face prison term—ranging from a year to three—depending on the sentence issued by the judge. The ethics and morals of Shariah Law apply even on the Internet,” stated the boy’s Saudi lawyer, Abdulrahman Al-Lahem.
As absurd as this whole spectacle may seem to a sober mind, the Saudi public appears split on the ethical implications of Abu Sin’s arrest. While some Saudis have sympathized with the teenager, believing that his arrest was a miscarriage of justice, others fully stand behind the Islamist moral code.
In fact, Riyadh Police spokesman Col. Fawaz Al-Mayman told the Saudi Gazette that police had actually received demands from concerned Saudi citizens to punish the boy. Abu Sin made “enticing videos…became famous and received negative attention,” noted the police spokesman.