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.