‘Abused’ Saudi taxi driver receives massive support

Updated 19 October 2015

‘Abused’ Saudi taxi driver receives massive support

JEDDAH: It had never occurred to Mahfouz Al-Yasin, a Saudi taxi driver, that he would be transformed from an ordinary citizen into a celebrity.
He was just a hard-working citizen, doing his hard-working best to support his family. Now he is receiving support and sympathy from both Saudis and Gulf citizens. His unfortunate encounter with a reckless passenger has become a story which illustrates the feeling of brotherhood in society and thwarts plans to break up the united fabric of the community.
Mahfouz normally cruises around the Eastern Province in his taxi, welcoming passengers with a smile. His two sons who are about to marry are in Riyadh and he recently went there to help them and to buy each one new furniture for his bedroom. He was selfless in his intent and did not consider his own health or well-being.
Abdullah Al-Yasin, a relative of Mahfouz, said that what happened was painful. A passenger in his car examined a certain article that was hanging in his car. The passenger verbally abused him while filming the encounter and then posted it online. Many who saw the video were left aghast by the tirade of the passenger.
“After the video of the incident circulated, the security authorities began a search for the offender and in less than 24 hours, Mahfouz was asked to come and identify the man,” said Yasin.
He said the police chief had confirmed the video was enough to convict the offender who is a government employee.
“The offender tried to intimidate and blackmail Mahfouz when he demanded payment of SR500,” he said, noting that the family had not pressed charges. It came to the public’s attention only because the video went viral.
Col. Ziad Al-Ruqaiti, a spokesman for the Eastern Province police, said that the Ahsa police arrested the person and he is currently being investigated prior to referring him to the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution.
The video has attracted viewers from all segments of society, including scholarship students who are abroad. There is a demand that the rights of the driver be upheld and defended.
The hashtag, “I am Sunni and demand the Shiite driver be given his rights,” has spotlighted the case. A majority of Sunnis defended the rights of the Shiite driver. The hashtag has attracted both Saudis as well as Gulf citizens who were united in their condemnation of the incident.

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

There was an explosion of joy at the podium when Antonio Felix da Costa lifted the winner’s trophy at the conclusion of the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix on Saturday. (Photo/Supplied)
Updated 16 December 2018

Motorsport, rock bands, tourists … welcome to the new Saudi Arabia

  • Three-day event at Ad Diriyah reaches spectacular climax in an unprecedented spirit of openness

AD DIRIYAH: The driver with the winner’s trophy was Antonio Felix da Costa — but the real winners were Saudi Arabia itself, and more than 1,000 tourists visiting the country for the first time.

Da Costa, the Andretti Motorsport driver, won the Formula E Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix in front of thousands of race fans at a custom-built track in the historic district on the outskirts of Riyadh.

But in truth, the event was about much more than high-tech electric cars hurtling round a race track — thrilling though that was. The three-day festival of motorsport, culture and entertainment was Saudi Arabia’s chance to prove that it can put on a show to rival anything in the world, and which only two years ago would have been unthinkable.

The event was also the first to be linked to the Sharek electronic visa system, allowing foreigners other than pilgrims or business visitors to come to Saudi Arabia.

Jason, from the US, is spending a week in the country with his German wife, riding quad bikes in the desert and visiting heritage sites. “I’ve always wanted to come for many, many years ... I’m so happy to be here and that they’re letting us be here,” he said.

Aaron, 40, a software engineer, traveled from New York for two days. “Saudi Arabia has always been an exotic place ... and I didn’t think I’d ever be able to come here,” he said.

About 1,000 visitors used the Sharek visa, a fraction of what Saudi Arabia aims eventually to attract. 

“Hopefully we will learn from this and see what we need to do for the future, but I can tell you from now that there is a lot of demand,” said Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, vice chairman of the General Sports Authority.

His optimism was backed by Kirill Dmitriev, chief executive of the Russian Direct Investment Fund and a visitor to Ad Diriyah. “Such events will attract tourists and are a true celebration for young Saudis who desire a bright future,” he said.

“The vision of moderate Islam, promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is important both for the region and the entire world, and its realization needs to be appreciated, respected and supported.”

The event ended on Saturday night with a spectacular show by US band OneRepublic and the superstar DJ David Guetta. “Just when you think things can’t get better, they suddenly do,” said concertgoer Saleh Saud. “This is the new Saudi Arabia, and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next.”