By Romil Patel
RIYADH: The delegates from the United Arab Emirates were in attendance at the Jenadrivah Heritage & Culture Festival in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, when religious police officers stormed the stand and evicted the men because “they are too handsome,” according to the Arabic language newspaper, Elaph.
“A festival official said the three Emiratis were taken out on the grounds they are too handsome and that the Commission [for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vices] members feared female visitors could fall for them,” Elaph reported.
The UAE released an official statement indicating that the religious police were anxious over the unexpected presence of an unnamed female artist in the pavilion.
“Her visit to the UAE stand was a coincidence as it was not included in the programme which we had already provided to the festival’s management,” Saeed Al Kaabi, head of the UAE delegation to the festival, said in a statement.
It was not clear if the woman’s presence was related to the decision to evict the “handsome” Emirati men.
Following the incident, Elaph said the festival’s management took swift action to deport the trio back to Abu Dhabi, capital of the Emirates.
With a majority Sunni Muslim population, Saudi Arabia is a deeply religious and ultraconservative society which forbids women from interacting with unrelated males and refuses to accord them with the same rights as men.
It is the only country in the world where women are banned from driving.
Change could be on the horizon, however, with billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal recently expressing his support for female drivers.
“The question of allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia will save more than 500,000 jobs in addition to the social and economic benefits,” the prince tweeted on Sunday.
It is estimated that eight million foreigners work in Saudi Arabia and thousands have been dismissed from their jobs and then deported as part of a government effort against foreigners who live and work illegally in the country.