Saudi TV anchor says she was sexually harassed in Mecca

Saudi TV anchor says she was sexually harassed in Mecca
2 min read
12 January, 2022
Saudi Tv anchor Narjes al-Awami said she was sexually harassed in Mecca six years ago, during her Umrah pilgrimage
Narjis al-Awami said she was harassed while performing the Umrah pilgrimage six years ago [AFP/Getty]

Saudi media personality Narjis al-Awami has revealed she was sexually harassed in Mecca six years ago, during a umrah pilgrimage.

Awami, an anchor on the private broadcaster MBC, said via Snapchat that she was assaulted while waiting her turn to kiss the Black Stone at the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site.

"We were on our way to perform Umrah. I stood towards the Black Stone, where there was a queue of women and men, but there were men in the women’s queue and their purpose [of being in the queue] was dishonorable; they wanted to harass women," al-Awami said in a video, which has been shared on other social platforms since Thursday.

“Someone came behind me, then moved next to me, and touched my thigh. I turned around and I hit him like I never hit someone before. The police then arrested him.”

She said that she hoped that telling her story would show that women can be subjected to harassment anywhere, from religious pilgrimages to music festivals.

"I don’t accept [these kinds of] things, whether it’s in Mecca, or Sayahed, or MDLBeast, or anywhere else in the world”,  al-Awami said.

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A court in another Islamic holy city, Medina, has also publicly named a man convicted of sexual harassment, The National reported, in an unprecedented move.

Yasser al-Arawi was found guilty of harassing a woman using obscene remarks. He was sentenced to eight months in prison and fined the equivalent of US$1,220.

The anti-harassment law, which took effect in 2018, provides for penalties of up to two years in prison and fines of up to $27,000 .

Saudi Arabia amended the law last year to allow for the name and punishment of offenders to be published in local media at their own expense. Al-Arawi is the first person to have been named and shamed as a result of the amendment.

Despite these legal steps, some Saudi women have said that the authorities are still not doing enough to bring an end to harassment.