Saudis get heavy with metal fans

Hwida Price, a reader of this blog, writes with more details about the heavy metal concert/party that was broken up by the Saudi authorities last Friday:

A number of youngsters have been in police custody since early hours of Friday 31 July 2009, at the Oliyyha police station in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. No charges have been brought against any of them yet and the officers in charge at the station seem to have no information as to the reason for their detention by the police. All that is known so far is that it was on orders from the prince of Riyadh’s office. Despite the police denial, the local press states that the detainees are ‘a group of Satan worshippers’.

In what seemed to be a softer ‘Go, let off some steam’ attitude, the Saudi authorities had been turning a blind eye to such events in the past. Whenever the religious authorities raised a concern, the police would make some arrests, get some undertakings signed before they release the suspects. They would call it 'holding parties without prior authorisation’. The punishment has never been more than a slap on the back of the hands. 

The arrests took place at one of the residential compounds in Ryadh after a concert performed by a metal rock group. The majority of the over-500 audience were Saudi. It is said that the main organisers are of western nationalities and a number of the detainees are of European, Syrian and Saudi nationals. Equipment related to the party was confiscated including cameras and computers. It was written on the party ticket that it was going to be held in secrecy and that two other parties were organised to be at the same time in the cities of Jeddah and Dammam.

This incident follows a last-minute cancellation of the Jeddah Film Festival on 19 July 2009. The optimism and promises of freedom once King Abdullah came to power in 2005, seem to be a mere mirage.