Saudis Arrest Free Huggers

But they're unrepentant, will hug again
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 22, 2013 12:29 PM CST
Saudis Arrest Free Huggers
Bandr al-Swed gives out free hugs on the streets of Riyadh in this YouTube screenshot.   (YouTube)

Offering free hugs to strangers is not cool with Saudi Arabia's religious police. Earlier this week, a young Saudi man named Bandr al-Swed posted a video to YouTube in which he walked through the streets of Riyadh with a "Free Hugs" sign, giving them out happily to men who passed by. Al-Swed had seen the Free Hugs Campaign in other countries and "thought it could bring happiness to Saudi Arabia," he told al-Arabiya.

Al-Swed got away with this subversive act of kindness. But when his video went viral, two other young men decided to follow his example, and they weren't as lucky. Abdulrahman al-Khayyal and a friend took similar signs to a major shopping district, only to be arrested, charged with indulging in exotic practices and offending public order, and forced to sign a pledge promising to refrain from future hugging sprees, the BBC reports. But al-Khayyal tells the Independent that he's proud of his actions, and intends to break the pledge and hug again. (More Saudi Arabia stories.)

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