Fourteen year old Saudi Arabian has been arrested for a video that went viral almost a year ago. The sordid crime? Publicly dancing to the Los del Río one-hit-wonder, Macarena, on the main road in Jeddah. Though admittedly humorous, the issue of his detainment is much more serious than the gleeful and choreographed wiggles would appear to indicate.
Today’s breaking news is simultaneously blood-curdling and laugh-inducing: a fourteen year old in Jeddah, whose personal and national identity has been kept private, has been arrested by Makkah patrols for a “violation of public morality”.
A video that was released in 2016 and quickly went viral incriminated the young boy and pinpointed him to the scene of the crime. Clad in loose grey athletic shorts, neon green Crocs, and old-school headphones, the rebel with a funky cause broke it down to the 90s one-hit-wonder Macarena on the intersection of the famous Tahlia Street and Riyadh’s Prince Mohamed bin Abdulaziz Road. Move by move, the fourteen year old appears to be in a state of absolute bliss (like most of us are when performing the iconically cheesy dance, let’s be honest), and for about forty seconds, he seems to be impervious to the vehicles he is blocking. It isn’t hard to achieve flow- as named by positive psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi- and lose all sense of time and space when you’re entranced by an upbeat song.
Saudi Arabian officials and public prosecutors, however, were not as humored. Yesterday, Sabq spokespersons announced that the juvenile delinquent was arrested for his “discourteous” behavior. And, sure, a song about a woman named Macarena who is unfaithful to her boyfriend while he is in the army can be interpreted as “improper”, but does it really warrant detention?
For us Westerners in The United States (and as evidenced by Twitter’s trending posts, people across the globe, including those in and from The Middle East), “Macarena Boy” is a hero, the force de resistance we never knew we needed. Giving the finger to religious state authorities (or, in this case, a butt wiggle), the teenager is doing what teenagers do best: rebelling and goofing off. This is not the first time someone is caught red-handed in a Middle Eastern country doing something that most Westerners would consider harmless nuisances: earlier in August, Abdallah Al Shahani was arrested for dabbing during a concert. Many outraged Saudis have been placing the blame for this rise of sordid etiquette- what we Latinos simply refer to as pesadeces -in their country’s youth because of the General Authority for Entertainment and General Authority for Culture.
A royal decree by King Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud created the GAE and GAEC on May 2016 as a means to harness the financial opportunities of “nurturing entertainment in all its forms, while also seeking to safeguard precious cultural heritage”. This has rendered the opening of cinemas, permitting concerts, a Comic Con, and even a future Six Flags theme park. Nevertheless, although these new entertainment options have been required to “adhere to Islamic principles”, Conservative Saudis still find themselves disgruntled, and are using examples like a young boy boogying to the Macarena as an excuse to revert the country back to more stringent traditionalism.
What’s most ominous and downright alarming about this incident is that children in Saudi Arabia’s criminal justice system are, as reported by Human Right’s Watch, hugely disadvantaged by the lack of any codified penal law and any regard for international standards of due process. Saudi Arabia has a slew of physical punishments that it has used to reprimand juvenile delinquents, including flogging, amputation, abuse, and ill-treatment. There have even been cases of minors being executed. You may read the full report by the HRW, and about other human rights offenses committed by Saudi Arabia, here. As such, we pray and hope that our unorthodox anonymous Saudi hero and rebel stays (above all else) safe, that he is tried justly, and that he continues to darle alegría a su cuerpo by not letting the austerity of his country break his spirit.