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This comedy writer’s Twitter thread about Saudi culture is devastating

A Twitter thread offers a harsh lesson about how the Saudi government treats entertainers and activists–and how that should inform U.S.-Saudi relations.

This comedy writer’s Twitter thread about Saudi culture is devastating
[Photos: Etereuti/Pixabay; Kamazine/Pixabay]

What: An illuminating Twitter thread that starts with a fun anecdote but goes much deeper.

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Who: American Dad! writer and producer Kirk Rudell.

Why we care: Earlier this week, we learned that Saudi Arabia requested that Netflix remove an episode of Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj from streaming in that country because the episode was critical of the Saudi government. Netflix complied. If this incident illuminated the Saudi response to critics outside of its borders, a heartbreaking new Twitter thread reveals how the company handles its critics from within.

Kirk Rudell, a writer for Seth MacFarlane’s long-running American Dad!, starts off his story pleasantly enough, describing how he came to meet popular Saudi comedian Fahad Albutairi and his wife Loujain Hathloul.

Rudell recounts getting to know the popular Saudi comedian better–and realizing how much of a miracle it is that Albutairi managed to become a popular Saudi comedian in the first place.

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If Rudell was surprised to learn how difficult comedians have it in the Middle East, he was floored to learn what activists in the region can expect to go through. Rudell didn’t realize at first that Hathloul is a women’s rights activist who has been arrested for driving.

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The devastating part of the Twitter thread arrives when Rudell skips ahead a couple years and reveals that neither Albutairi nor Hathloul were as free from danger as they may have hoped at the time they met the American Dad! writer. Rudell compounds the impact of his revelations by reminding readers of the current state of the U.S.’s relationship with Saudi Arabia.

The Twitter thread ends on an especially sad note, with Rudell learning that Hathloul’s father recently confirmed that Hathloul has been sexually harassed, tortured, and threatened with rape inside the Saudi government prison where she is kept–and that the father was suspended from Twitter after tweeting about it.

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As certain Americans complain about the supposed scourge of PC culture, it’s important to remember the freedom of speech we too often take for granted. You might get “canceled” in the U.S. for saying the wrong thing, but you probably won’t get tortured in a government jail.

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