A viral video that appears to show a group of men — some of them clad in security uniforms — beating girls and women at a residential facility in the southwestern part of the country, is being investigated by the Saudi authorities.
The video caused outrage among Saudi dissidents and activists, who said it highlighted the type of violence the state regularly inflicts on women and girls.
In the footage, policemen and men in civilian garb chase the women through the facility’s courtyard, beating some of them with belts or batons. At one point in the video, men drag a girl across the courtyard by her hair while a policeman whips her and other men put her in handcuffs.
The news and intelligence agency that verifies social media content, confirmed the location of the video, which matches images of the state-run Social Education House for Girls in Khamis Mushait.
The facility’s director, Samar bint Hassan Ahmed al-Harbi, did not respond to a request for comment.
In Saudi Arabia, women are also often sent to “orphanages” or shelters to escape domestic violence or for disobeying family members. Women staying at these facilities, which are run by the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development, frequently complain of ill-treatment, rights groups say.
According to ALQST, a U.K.-based rights group focused on Saudi Arabia, the person who first posted the video to social media said the attack on the women at Khamis Mushait was in retaliation for a protest over poor living conditions and rights violations at the facility.
The organization said it did not believe the incident would be properly investigated, citing “flaws in the judicial system” and a general lack of accountability when it comes to crimes perpetrated against women.