Widely-circulating videos on social media that show security forces brutally assaulting and beating a group of girls at an orphanage in Saudi Arabia's southwestern 'Asir province have sent ripples of anger and outrage across the world.
The footage, first posted on Twitter on Tuesday by a woman who filmed the attack, shows dozens of men in a security uniform and others in national attire chasing and attacking women with tasers, beating them with wooden sticks and lashing them with leather belts.
The incident happened in the city of Khamis Mushait, located some 884 kilometers (some 550 miles) southwest of the capital Riyadh, during a raid.
It was, however, not immediately clear when the incident took place.
One man could be seen dragging a woman by her hair across the orphanage lawn as she screamed for help.
If you were wondering how MBS’s state security acts when it arbitrarily arrests people - you have a video here of them assaulting an orphanage. Criminals. #خميس_مشيط #ايتام_خميس_مشيط https://t.co/GQ5bYlTVEE— Lina Alhathloul لينا الهذلول (@LinaAlhathloul) August 31, 2022
Other video clips showed officers chasing women through the orphanage and brutally pushing them to the ground.
The video footage had been viewed nearly a million times by Wednesday afternoon.
Human rights advocates denounced the incident as more evidence of the Riyadh regime’s suppression of women's rights under the de facto rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MbS.
Abdullah al-Jreiwi, a London-based Saudi opposition activist, was quoted as saying that the assault came in response to a hunger strike held by the women to demand their rights after earlier demands were turned down.
“The administration of the orphanage then requested the intervention of the security services,” he wrote on Twitter.
Jreiwi warned that all the women at the orphanage “are now in danger from the security officers, the management of the care home, and the female staff.”
He hastened to add that there is a threat to all those who documented the incident.
“Immediate intervention must be made and everyone who committed the infringement must be held accountable.”
A hashtag campaign "Khamis Mushait Orphans" to raise awareness and call for justice and accountability has been launched by social media users, quickly becoming the trending hashtag in the Arab country.
Violence against women in #SaudiArabia is a horrific.. This is an attack by dozens of male security forces who used tasers and sticks and abused orphaned girls inside the orphanage just for their hunger strike to improve their poor living conditions.#ايتام_خميس_مشيط pic.twitter.com/NHevnNR9Ki— Mahmoud Refaat (@DrMahmoudRefaat) August 30, 2022
Meanwhile, stung by the global outrage, the governor of Saudi Arabia’s 'Asir region, Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdulaziz, has set up a committee to investigate the incident and refer the case to relevant authorities, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.
Since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested hundreds of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others for their political activism, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnation of the crackdown.
Muslim scholars have been executed and women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured as freedom of expression, association, and belief continues to be denied by the kingdom's authorities.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.