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Coronavirus: Saudi actor under fire for proposing use of detainees as ‘lab rats’

Maram Abdulaziz has been criticised for claiming that detainees should be used to test medication and drugs
Maram Abdulaziz has come under fire for her comments, which many have said defy human rights (Screengrab/Instagram)

Maram Abdulaziz, a Saudi actor, has come under a barrage of criticism after stating online that detainees should be used as "lab rats" to test coronavirus vaccines on. 

The actor, who has over 20,000 followers on Twitter, took to the social media platform to make the suggestion.

“If the matter was in my hands, everyone who has been arrested, particularly in cases that impact security, I would not imprison them but rather deprive them of food, drink and rehabilitation," she said in a tweet that she later deleted.

Saudi actress tweet

“I would make them the basis of testing and experiments for new medicines even if the outcome was not guaranteed, as a punishment for them. We would also be able to benefit from them this way, we would rather test on them than on rats and monkeys who have never harmed us in any way.”  

Social media users were quick to point that there are laws in place to deal with detainees the proper way and their punishment should be left to authorities.

Translation: A prisoner, whatever their charge, is tried according to the laws in force in the country they are in, and they are trusted to the authorities and officials. They are not lab rats and I advise you to repent for what you have said, seek forgiveness and give alms.” 

Translation: If matters were in my hands, I would have applied what you said to those in the cheap art industry, because they too are not benefiting us in any way. 

Social media users pointed to the human rights concerns related to her suggestion and were grateful that she is not in charge of such matters.

Translation: I seek refuge in God from this kind of thinking which is a crime against humanity and a crime against human rights...Thank God that matters are not in her hands…”

After the onslaught of criticism online, the actress took to Twitter to address her tweet in a two-minute video, which has since been deleted from her account.

In the video, the actress claims that detainees would be better put to use as subjects for testing, rather than being imprisoned for a number of years. 

“This would all be done with their consent, they would have to sign as a volunteer, this would benefit the country and reduce their time behind bars. Where’s the problem?” Abdulaziz said.

“Why should we not take advantage of these people in prisons? It would be with their consent. They would either get something in return financially or less time in prison, etc. For those criticising me from a humanitarian perspective, I’m not saying execute them, I am saying benefit from them by using them."

In a follow-up tweet, the actress responds to the criticism by further justifying her comments.  

“For those who keep asking me why I don’t put myself forward for medical testing, firstly, I have put myself forward as a cell donor and all of my organs after death. As for clinical trials, that requires people who are recovering, which does not apply to me! I am not one of those who don’t do as they preach.”

Around the Middle East, there have been a growing number of calls for prisoners to be released from cramped prison conditions amidst the Covid-19 outbreak.

In Saudi Arabia, activists have used social media to highlight the detention of political activists, citing fears of the spread of the coronavirus in unsanitary conditions behind bars.

The kingdom has recorded 2,752 coronavirus cases and 38 deaths. 

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.