Saudi official destroys TV during charity video game contest

A high-ranking Saudi sports official has raised eyebrows after destroying a television while watching a charity video game contest, with many comparing the outburst to the way the kingdom is run under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).

Turki al-Sheikh, Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), posted a video of himself throwing his controller directly at the television and breaking it completely during a match on the FIFA 20 football video game, after conceding a second goal.

“After small riots … we will find us a new TV and come back to finish the match … it’s still not over,” he tweeted.

Andreas Krieg, a Middle East researcher, wrote that “Saudi is led by kids,” adding that “the tantrum of MBS aide and confidante Turki al-Sheikh after losing a video game is indicative of the ‘new guard’ in Riyadh: impulsive, irrational, removed from reality, vain and self-obsessed”.

A user has compared Sheikh’s reaction to how he runs other football teams he owns, including UD Almeria, the Spanish second division football team and Pyramids FC, an Egyptian football club he pulled out of in acrimonious circumstances.

The online charity match was organized by Sheikh in order to help those in need of housing in Saudi Arabia. It was played against Saud al-Suwailem, the former owner of Saudi football team Al-Nassr.

Sheikh is overseeing billions of dollars’ worth of investment into concerts and sporting events as part of the kingdom’s Vision 2030 strategy to move away from an oil-reliant economy.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by MBS, has recently launched a $368m takeover bid for English Premier League football club Newcastle United.

Many human rights groups and media organizations have raised concerns about the ownership bid, urging the English football authorities to consider bin Salman’s human rights records.

Saudi woman arrested for ‘insulting’ MBS, rights groups concerned

Meanwhile, rights groups have voiced concerns for the safety of a Saudi woman who was reportedly arrested after she “insulted” bin Salman on social media.

The 40-year-old woman, identified as Amani Alzain, was detained after she apparently referred to MBS as “Abu Munshar,” meaning “father of the saw”.

She made the comment while on a live video chat with Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim late last year.

The video was recorded last October, but it resurfaced this month, sparking the Arabic hashtag “Amani Alzain insults crown prince”.

The crown prince became known as “Abu Munshar” after the killing and dismemberment of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi government agents at the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate in October 2018.

Alzain’s detention was reported by Prisoners of Conscience, a Twitter account that tracks political arrests in Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday. The Lebanon-based Persian Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) also confirmed the news.

“GCHR calls for the immediate release of Amani Alzain and for all those arrested in violation of their right to freedom of expression, including women’s rights defenders,” the group said in a statement.

Later on Wednesday, the Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties called on Saudi authorities to reveal the fate of Alzain.

“Geneva Council for Rights and Liberties renews its call for Saudi authorities to end the campaigns of arrests against the right of free expression and to immediately release all the prisoners of conscience and compensate them for the damage and abuse that they faced,” the group said in a statement in Arabia.

MBS has been at the helm of a brutal crackdown on dissent that has seen thousands of Saudis arbitrarily detained, tortured and stripped of their assets.

Earlier this month, Amnesty International called on Riyadh to release a group of women’s rights activists, who were detained in a wide scale crackdown across the kingdom two years ago.

The London-based organization then called on Saudi authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders solely detained in connection with their peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression, association and assembly.

Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the ultra-conservative kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

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