Updated 16 October 2015

VIDEO: Couple attacked by Haia men in Riyadh mall parking lot

This video posted on YouTube shows a muttawa (religious police) jumping on the back of a Briton during a violent confrontation at the parking lot of a shopping mall in Riyadh on Friday, August 29, 2014. According to reports posted on the social network, quoting a letter by British man Peter Howarth Lees, he and his wife were confronted by three young members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia) when they fell in line before a cashier for families at a supermarket inside the mall. Even after he and his Saudi wife, Abeer, explained that they were a couple the Haia men followed them to their car in the parking lot and started taking pictures of their car. He said the Haia men became violent when he also took pictures of them and their patrol car for protection in case they did something untoward. The three men attacked him, prompting his wife to get out of the car and pushed them back. Then, as shown in the short video clip, one of the Haia men jumped from a car on the Briton’s back but his alert wife hit back at the man, who was then restrained by mall security and bystanders. “At this point the man managed to kick my wife in the stomach before I got her to the other side of the car to get her inside. As I was getting her into the car, another person (a member of the public seemingly incited by the Hai’a or simply carried away with the violence) jumped on our hood and roof and then karate kicked me in the neck and I fell again. I then got up from the ground again and bundled my wife back into the car, got in myself and locked the doors,” Lees said in his letter. He said the Haia men, however, would not allow the driver to get in until Lees surrendered the mobile phone he used to take pictures of his attackers. A police patrol responded to the couple’s call for help, only to leave without doing anything when they saw that the attackers were muttawas. It was only when security officers from the British Embassy came that the Haia men left. A report by the Arabic paper Al Hayat says the case is now under investigation, while Lees said police officers apparently requested by the Embassy came later to take his statement and that of his wife. The attack had been denounced by many Saudis and expatriates in social media networks.