Twitter users in Saudi Arabia condemned the stabbing of three actors performing a play in Riyadh and voiced their support for the recent arrival of public entertainment events in the Kingdom.
Video circulating on social media shows a man storming on stage at the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Park Theater in the al-Malaz district, knocking people to the ground. Police said two men and a woman were stabbed and were later reported to be in a stable condition.
The suspect, reported by local press to be a Yemeni citizen, was arrested. There has been no indication of the motive for the attack.
Many Twitter users saw the stabbing as an attack on the government’s recent reforms relaxing restrictions on public entertainment. Thousands of Saudis regularly flock to music and theatrical performances that have sprung up as a result of the reforms, spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
One Twitter user wrote, “As [Saudi Arabia] tries to progress economically globally by attracting foreign entertainment into the country, troubling news coming from the country, like stabbing of 3 performers by a Yemeni attacker, keep getting in the way of Prince’s ambitious plans.
As SA tries to progress economically globally by attracting foreign entertainment into the country, troubling news coming from the country, like stabbing of 3 performers by a Yemeni attacker, keep getting in the way of Prince's ambitious plans #econ466sdsu https://t.co/eh8JaOVb8W— Justyna Kolataj (@JustynaKolataj) November 12, 2019
The play was part of a series of festivities called “Magic Forest”, running from 24 October to 23 November at the King Abdullah Park, under the umbrella of a two-month series of events called Riyadh Season. Riyadh Season is one of 11 festival seasons being hosted in line with the government’s radical transformation plan known as Vision 2030.
While new entertainment events have attracted sell-out crowds and received widespread acclaim by Saudis on Twitter, some people have opposed the reforms.
One user wrote that the attack was an act of terrorism: “Such extremist ideology is what the Crown Prince and Saudi diplomacy are fighting against.”
#RiyadhAttack The stabbing attack is not an isolated event or a separate incident; it is a terrorist attack .— خالد حمود الشريف (@0khalodi0) November 12, 2019
Such extremist ideology is what the Crown Prince and Saudi diplomacy are fighting against.
We will live and defeat terrorism
The Saudi government has been aware of the “risk of this sort of attack against the recent introduction of public entertainment (which many clerics have been inciting against),” and had pursued a “zero tolerance policy towards their public attacks on change and reform” as a result, wrote Saudi Arabian analyst Ali Shihabi on Twitter.
The risk of this sort of attack against the recent introduction of public entertainment (which many clerics have been inciting against) is a key reason that govt. has pursued a zero tolerance policy towards their public attacks against change and reform. https://t.co/JL3Cqat7QB— Ali Shihabi (@aliShihabi) November 11, 2019
Another user pointed to the fact that the suspect was a Yemeni national and said that they hoped the attack was not terror-related.
Riyadh police announced the arrest of a 33-year-old Yemeni resident who stabbed two men and a woman with a knife during live entertainment event held at King Abdullah Park Theater. One million Yemeni expatriates residing in Saudi Arabia. I hope it was not a terrorist act.— SouthernStar (@SouthernStar14) November 12, 2019
The stabbing is the first such incident since the Kingdom opened its door for entertainment.
On Thursday, Egyptian singer Amr Diab, Moroccan-American rapper French Montana, and DJs Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike performed their hit songs at a sold-out show in the capital.
Other recent events include the WWE’s Crown Jewel event in Saudi Arabia, which featured the first-ever women’s match to be held in the Kingdom, the Joy Entertainment Awards, which were attended by Jackie Chan and Jason Momoa, and a sold-out show by international K-pop boyband sensation BTS, who kicked off Riyadh Season with a bang.