Following are excerpts from an interview with Saudi journalist and TV host Nadin Al-Badir, which aired on Dream2 TV on January 10, 2012:
Nadin Al-Badir: 28-year-old Hassan Nabil Hmeid from Abha was harassed [by the religious police] because he grew his hair long. At the end of the day, all the matters they pursue are superficial ones. They have no depth. They are concerned only with external looks. Ultimately, [Hmeid] died as a result of the beating he received. Some say that he died when he tried to flee from them. What matters is that this young man's life can to an end because of backward, reactionary people, who would like to take us back hundreds of years in time. I don't think the situation back then was as bad as they would like it to be.
Interviewer: But some might say that these are isolated cases. Have they grown in frequency in recent times?
Nadin Al-Badir: I could give you many examples, but we don't have enough time.
Interviewer: Just a few examples. There's the well-known case of the fire…
Nadin Al-Badir: A fire broke out in a girls' school in Saudi Arabia. It would have been easy to extinguish the fire without any girl getting hurt. But members of the Authority for the Promotion of Virtue stood at the door of the school and prevented any student from leaving, because the girls were not wearing the hijab. How were they supposed to get a hijab when the school was going up in flames? They prevented the fire brigade from entering to extinguish the fire, and they prevented the parents from going in…
Nadin Al-Badir: Because the girls were not wearing the abaya. The girls were right behind the door…
Interviewer: But it is a duty to save them from death. Who cares if they are wearing the abaya or not?
Nadin Al-Badir: Their mission is to save you from the Hellfire, not from death. They believe that you are martyred in such a case. I don't know what was going through their minds at that moment.
Interviewer: Saving them from the Hellfire is more important than saving them from death…
Nadin Al-Badir: I'm talking about 13-year-old girls, not university students. These were schoolgirls. 15 girls from the school died – because of the Authority for Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, and not because of the fire. They could easily have been rescued. Has any member of the Authority been placed on trial? Not that we've seen. The department of girls' education was annexed to the Education Ministry, but the Authority is never held accountable. It punishes, but is never punished itself. You can never get justice. Even if they stab or kill you, nobody can hold them accountable.
Interviewer: The Authority is never held accountable even if it makes a mistake?
Nadin Al-Badir: No. You can file a complaint or a lawsuit against it. Many have been filed, but we've never heard of anyone being punished for attacking a citizen.
Interviewer: Some Saudis, who support the Authority, believe that there is a need for it, and say that anyone who fears it must be deviating from the right path. They believe that it protects society, our children, and our families.
Nadin Al-Badir: I haven't noticed that they protect our children and our families. The rate of all forms of sexual harassment is the highest it has ever been.
Interviewer: In Saudi Arabia?
Nadin Al-Badir: Yes. Droves of young men might harass a girl, and I've never seen the Authority preventing these harassments. The Authority has absolutely nothing to do with protection. The Authority is the enemy of society. How can it protect it?
It is well-known that most members of the Authority are ex-cons, who used to be drug users or drug dealers. Even Sheik Abd Al-Muhsen Al-Abikan, advisor to the royal court, suggested that the Authority should be abolished. He said that most of them were drug dealers, drug users, thieves, and ex-cons who repented, all of a sudden, and became violently extreme. These people, according to Sheik Al-Abikan, should not be allowed to have such authorities, because they use it in inappropriate ways.