Could a picture of a man wearing short-shorts lead to prison time? Apparently so, in Saudi Arabia.
Suhail al-Jameel is a 23-year-old gay social media star in Saudi Arabia, and he might be facing three years in prison for posting a photo on Twitter of himself shirtless while wearing a pair of leopard print shorts.
According to Business Insider, al-Jameel posted on Snapchat this past Sunday, October 13, that authorities have charged him with sharing nudity online. This was after he’d been detained for wearing shorts at the beach on October 6th.
Miss the sun 🌞 pic.twitter.com/Tagzs6inR3
— سهيل الجميل جداً (@suhail_y_y) October 6, 2019
“I take a photo of myself wearing shorts at the beach and I go to jail for wearing shorts.” wrote al-Jameel on social media (which you can read in full below). “Then the police change my charges to electronic crimes for sharing photos of nudity. How am I nude if I am wearing shorts on a hot beach?”
He then added, “In 2019 LGBTQ are not welcome in Saudi Arabia, you must live in secret and can’t live in peace. You want tourism but you won’t give us freedoms.”
While al-Jameel, who has been imprisoned before according to Erem News, was unsure how long he could be potentially detained, his fans on Twitter using the hashtag #freeuhail stated three years. That number, however, has been unconfirmed by the authorities.
Currently, Saudi Arabia is considered one of the worst countries in the world in terms of LGBTQ rights. Gay sex between men or women is illegal in the country. In addition, homosexuality and transgender life are generally seen as immoral and indecent. If citizens are caught engaging in gay sex, homosexuality, or even cross-dressing, they can receive a series of punishments like fines, a public whipping, beatings, prison time, possible capital punishment, and more.
That said, the country is also experiencing a transition to modernizing its cultural and social standing worldwide. This is largely in a pull for more tourism revenue. That has created conflict and a double standard where tourists and foreigners are given more freedom than locals and actual citizens.
One example of this is when, last month, a tourism-funded video of two swimsuit-clad western women swimming in the Red Sea went viral. Yet, al-Jameel is being punished for wearing shorts on the beach.
To counteract this, lawmakers in crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s advisory chamber, the Shura council, approved 19 new public decency laws. These laws, which warn against wearing shorts and exposing skin, were created to avoid tourists violating Islamic customs.
But is that the direction Saudi Arabia’s citizens want to go? Based on al-Jameel’s case, it is not. But, unfortunately, it’s the direction the country is going anyway.