Saudi teen jailed for flirty video chats with US vlogger
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For months, a Saudi Internet user called Abu Sin had the Arabic-speaking web in stitches over videos of him chatting with an American video blogger. With his sideways cap, toothless smile, and over-the-top flirting, he quickly gained a large following. This did not, however, amuse Saudi authorities, who arrested the 19-year-old on Sunday. They accuse him of “unethical behaviour”.
Abu Sin – a nickname that translates to “toothless” – rose to online fame for videos in which he chats with video blogger Christina Crockett. These chats were broadcast on the livestreaming site YouNow. In broken English, the young man regularly tried to flirt with the amused Californian, while thousands of viewers watched.
Police in the Saudi capital Riyadh arrested “Abu Sin” on Sunday while he was driving with two friends. Appropriately enough, the scene of his arrest was broadcast live on YouNow, where the young man was chatting with a Kuwaiti user. At 6 minutes and 52 seconds into the video below, a police vehicle pulls up behind Abu Sin’s car. He gets out and walks towards it. Shortly afterwards, his two friends follow him to the police car. Then, at 10”47, one of the friends comes back and tells the Kuwaiti man, “he’s going to take a while. There’s an arrest warrant against him.”
The next day, Riyadh police published a statement explaining that Abu Sin had been arrested “for unethical behaviour”. The police spokesperson elaborated in a local newspaper: “The two of them [Abu Sin and Christina] composed enticing videos which received thousands of followers and viewers from all over the world within a short period of time. Most of the viewers were from the Arab world. Abu Sin […] became famous and received negative attention.”
If Abu Sin is convicted of breaking sharia law, he risks up to three years in jail, according to a lawyer quoted by the state newspaper Okaz.
Abu Sin and Christina Crockett on YouTube
The conversations between Abu Sin and Crockett were first broadcast on YouNow before being relayed on YouTube. They became very popular there, garnering hundreds of thousands of views.
This video, for example, was a big hit. In it, Abu Sin, smoking a cigarette, asks Christina to marry him. Crockett, who looks sceptical, says “but you’re only 13”. He swears he’s 20, and puts on his ghotra – the scarf worn by men in Gulf nations – to sing her a traditional song.
This video features one of their very first conversations, in July. The pair struggle to communicate, since Abu Sin doesn’t speak English well and Crockett doesn’t speak any Arabic.
Crockett's YouTube channel features typical "unboxing" and "challenge" videos. Her conversations with Abu Sin made her a star on YouNow, where she now has more than 600,000 fans. FRANCE 24 reached out to her for her reaction to Abu Sin’s arrest, but she had no comment. YouNow said it did not comment on individual users.
This is not the first time that a Saudi Internet user has been arrested for videos that the authorities deem immoral. In 2013, a young man was arrested by the religious police after he posted photos of himself offering “free hugs” on the streets of Riyadh.