Three performers have been wounded in a knife attack while performing on a stage in a park in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh last night, marking the first such incident since the kingdom lifting its restrictions on hosting such events.
Authorities said they detained the man who is thought to have stabbed the two men and one woman, identifying him as a 33-year-old Yemeni resident of the kingdom. Footage on social media showed him running onto the stage and allegedly stabbing the performer from behind as they were dancing in gold ensembles. All the victims are said to be in a stable condition.
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis (@sotiridi) November 11, 2019
Saudis and non-Saudis have taken to social media platforms to voice their condemnation of the attack and to express their solidarity with the performers. Some users have even referred to the incident as a terrorist attack committed by those who oppose the relaxation of the country’s conservative norms.
The motive for the attack has not yet been revealed, but it is strongly suspected that it is the start of a backlash against Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s recent social reforms as part of the “modernisation” of the kingdom and the opening up of the country to foreign investment and tourists visiting for purposes other than pilgrimage and religious reasons.
Amongst the laws that have been enforced include those which will allow foreign unmarried couples to stay in hotel rooms together, free-mixing in public areas now being permitted, the abaya no longer having to be worn in public, and the increase in concerts and entertainment events throughout the kingdom. The move has upset many among its conservative society and the scholarly class, with arrests of critics – even scholars – who speak out against the changes.
As the attacker is said to be Yemen, another suspected motive is revenge for Saudi Arabia’s ongoing war in Yemen against the Houthi militias and the resulting damage to the country and its inhabitants.