Middle East

Saudi rapper faces arrest for Mecca Girl music video

Asayel Slay Image copyright Asayel Slay

Saudi officials have called for the arrest of a female rapper who released a music video for her song Mecca Girl that praises women from the holy city as "powerful and beautiful".

Social media users reacted angrily, calling the authorities "hypocritical".

In 2018 the crown prince of the conservative country began a programme of reforms.

But activists say repression has increased and there is a crackdown on freedom of expression.

The video was released on YouTube last week by a young rapper who identifies herself as Asayel Slay.

She raps about women in the city of Mecca, which is Islam's holiest site where millions of Muslims go on Hajj or pilgrimage annually.

"Our respect to other girls but the Mecca girl is sugar candy," she sings in the video while men and women dance in a café.

It was widely shared on social media, and people used hashtag #Mecca_Girl_Represents_Me to praise it.

On Thursday governor of Mecca Khaled al-Faisal ordered the arrest of the people behind the video, tweeting that it "insults the customs of Mecca" and using hashtag "They're not the girls of Mecca".

Asayel Slay's account has been suspended and the video is no longer available on YouTube.

One popular tweet read, "It's the only rap song that doesn't contain a single obscenity, insult, pornographic scene, nudity, hashish or smoking and the rapper is even wearing the hijab.

"The girl faces arrest because the song doesn't suit new Saudi Arabia or old."

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Media captionSaudi Arabia reforms: Are they good news for women?

Other social media users suggested double-standards apply to men and women.

They drew attention to the case of Moroccan singer Saad Lmjarred who was permitted to perform in Riyadh after facing three charges of rape that he denies.

Social media users accused authorities of projecting an image of modernisation abroad while cracking down at home.

"This is so typical of the Saudi government to do - bring western influencers to artwash the regime but attack real Saudi women who try to artistically express their cultural identities," tweeted Amani Al-Ahmadi, who identifies herself as a Saudi-American feminist.

Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is promoting a more modern image of the country abroad as part of his Vision 2030 programme of reform.

Artists including Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and BTS have been invited to perform in the kingdom.

Nicki Minaj pulled out after a backlash, citing her support for the rights of women and the LGBT community.

At a music festival in December, 120 Saudi men and women were arrested for wearing "inappropriate clothes."