Saudi Arabia May Jail Fan for Two Years After Hugging Singer On Stage

A woman in Saudi Arabia may face two years in prison after she ran onstage and hugged a popular singer during a concert on Friday.

Video of the incident went viral in the kingdom, with Saudis launching a hashtag on Twitter to debate the woman's actions. In the viral clips, Saudi-Iraqi singer Majid Al-Muhandis can be seen performing in the the kingdom's western city of Taif when a woman, wearing a traditional abaya and hijab, runs onto stage and wraps her arms tightly around him.

A security officer quickly steps in, but struggles to remove the woman from the singer. Other security rush in and another woman can be seen running toward the stage as well. According to Saudi newspaper Arab News, the woman was detained and is currently being held by a girl's welfare institution. The singer continued his performance as planned after the incident occurred.

Officials have said that the woman "committed a deed incriminated in the anti-harassment act," Emirati newspaper Gulf News reported. If convicted, the fan girl could face up to two years in jail and a fine of 100,000 Saudi riyals ($26,665). The woman's name and age has not been officially released.

On social media, many in the kingdom debated the woman's actions using an Arabic hashtag that translates to: "Girl hugs Majid Al-Muhandis." While many defended the fan girl and downplayed her actions, others classified her actions as "sexual harassment."

Twitter user Rahaf Alanazi said her actions could be "considered as a full situation of sexual harassment, the behavior is sufficiently severe or pervasive as to create an intimidating, hostile or repugnant environment."

Sharing similar sentiments, Twitter user Afratheid said : "Touching people who are uncomfortable being touched is considered harassment."

However, others said the woman's actions are perfectly normal at a concert. "Fangirling is a condition not a crime! It happens in every concert around the world, just tighten the security and the problem [will] be solved," Twitter user Khaled Sadig wrote.

Saudi Arabia has long maintained strict morality laws that regulate the way women dress in public and also segregate men and women. Only within the past few months has the kingdom begun to allow men and women to attend large concerts and sporting events together. Saudi Arabia also became the last country in the world to legally allow women to drive just last month.

While such reforms have been pushed forward by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman through his Vision 2030 national transformation plan, they have received significant backlash from conservative members of society. At the same time, critics have accused Saudi leaders of pushing forward social reforms as a cover for continued human rights abuses and suppressing freedom of speech, as well as political dissent.

Since May, the kingdom has detained several prominent activists, including the leaders of a campaign pushing the government to allow women to drive. Riyadh claims the arrests were made to crackdown on individuals it accuses of having suspicious contacts with "foreign enemies." However, rights groups and the United Nations have expressed serious concerns.

"Women's human rights defenders have been arrested and detained on a wide scale across the country, which is truly worrying and perhaps a better indication of the government's approach to women's human rights," UN experts said in a statement. "We call for the urgent release of all of those detained while pursuing their legitimate activities in the promotion and protection of women's rights in Saudi Arabia."

Saudi singer Majid al-Muhandis performs during a concert in Jeddah on January 30, 2017 AFP / Amer HILABI