Saudi Arabian police claim to have arrested all those in attendance at an alleged same-sex wedding close to the holy city of Mecca.
Footage of the ceremony went viral just days ago, showing two men beneath a parasol, walking alongside each other down what appears to be an outdoors wedding aisle.
Another man walks behind the apparent newlyweds, spraying them with confetti while music can be heard playing in the background.
Both men were clothed in traditional Saudi dress, with one appearing to wear a wedding veil.
An official Mecca Police spokesperson announced the arrests in a statement translated by Step Feed.
The statement described how the forbidden ceremony was reported by a man attending a festival close to Mecca:
The man said people attending the event were surprised when a few young men entered the place and tried to perform a ‘gay wedding scene.’ The police were told one of the men appeared to be a crossdresser.
The statement continued:
After the crossdresser and other people involved in the incident were identified, they were all arrested and their case will now be referred to the prosecution,
— إمارة منطقة مكة (@makkahregion) January 8, 2018
After the video went viral, Aradiyat governate official Ali bin Youssef al-Sharif told the public an investigation was underway, warning Saudi people they must strictly observe the ‘morals and virtuous values of this blessed country’, reports The New Arab.
Homosexuality is outlawed in Saudi Arabia and LGBT citizens can face fines, deportations, lashings and even death penalties.
This ceremony appears to have incited particular anger due to its proximity to the holy place of Mecca.
زواج مثليين في مكه بس المظله والبخاخات حريقه pic.twitter.com/T4IcKEvOlt
— Nawaf??? (@nafxil2) January 3, 2018
According to The New Arab, reactions to the video have been divided.
One person tweeted:
Since 2013, the phenomenon of homosexuality has been increasing in Mecca, and perhaps the response for respectable people is to purge Mecca of this corruption, which stems mainly from foreigners.
In the purest spot on earth… Two homosexuals marry in Saudi Arabia.
منذ عام 2013 وظاهره المثليين تتزايد بمكه ولعل هذا يقود إلى الاستجابه لمطالب الشرفاء بأهميه تطهير مكه من هذا الفساد الذي أغلبه من الاجانب #مواليد_السعودية #زواج_مثليين_بمكة
هذا خبر اليوم((تحقيقات موسعة مع عدد من الشبان أقاموا حفلاً لزواج شابين #مثليين في #العرضيات )) pic.twitter.com/FROZHpmIjk
— alhothly (@MARAMSAAD3322) January 3, 2018
Some people have used this incident to blast the country’s new leader Mohammed bin Salman for his more tolerant views on society.
The 32-year-old Crown Prince was appointed back in June 2017, and wants to take the country in a more modern direction than his predecessors.
According to CNN, the young leader made the following statement at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh:
We want to lead normal lives, lives where our religion and our traditions translate into tolerance, so that we coexist with the world and become part of the development of the world,
Seventy percent of the Saudi population is under the age of 30.
In all honesty, we will not spend 30 years of our lives dealing with extremist ideologies. We will destroy them today and immediately,
However, others used to video to praise and defend the new, contemporary direction Saudi Arabia is being taken in.
One person tweeted:
Why don’t you just leave them alone, even if they were truly getting married, what is it to you?
This is the new Saudi Arabia, under the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman.
— SaudiLGBT (@ArabiaLGBT) March 26, 2016
This story is developing and more news is expected to follow.
Jules studied English Literature with Creative Writing at Lancaster University before earning her masters in International Relations at Leiden University in The Netherlands (Hoi!). She then trained as a journalist through News Associates in Manchester. Jules has previously worked as a mental health blogger, copywriter and freelancer for various publications.