Almost everyone has a few online-romance horror stories, but no matter how awkward your chatroom dalliances have been, we have a feeling the Saudi Arabian teenager who uses the online handle Abu Sin probably has them beat.
Abu Sin — which means “the toothless one” because of his crooked teeth — is now facing up to five years in jail and an $800,000 fine. His crime? Chatting flirtatiously with Christina Crockett, a 21-year-old video blogger in California.
This was not your usual flirty online chat, nothing explicit or even suggestive here. Just two people — one who spoke no Arabic and another who spoke almost as little English — being really wacky. In one of the best segments, Abu Sin shows Christina his glasses. She responds by trying on a series of glasses culminating in a pair of Groucho Marx gag glasses.
It’s all like that. Often they just put on music and dance together. And we are not the only ones who found their online relationship endearing; their many conversations on YouNow — a real-time global chat platform — eventually garnered a fan base of hundreds of thousands of viewers in Saudi Arabia and abroad.
At one point, Abu Sin tells Crockett that he loves her, to which she happily replies, “I love you too.” After that exchange, Abu Sin asks her to marry him.
She draws a wedding ring on her finger while Abu Sin waits, before answering: “I want to marry you, too.”
The couple’s thousands of fans were no doubt delighted, but Saudi Arabia’s conservative religious police didn’t share in their happiness.
Last week the teenager — Saudi authorities say he is 19; on his YouNow he claims he is 21, though he looks much younger than that, and Crockett has said she believed he was “about 16” — was arrested and charged with “unethical behavior.”
Saudi police spokesman Colonel Fawaz Al-Mayman blamed internet commenters for his arrest, saying that commenters on Abu Sin’s videos “demanded for him to be punished for his actions.”
It is no secret that in the strictly fundamentalist Islamic kingdom of Saudi Arabia this kind of flirtation with the opposite sex is frowned upon. Single men and women are kept strictly separate, and women are forbidden from leaving the house without a full head covering and aren’t even allowed to drive a car. Still, even in conservative Saudi Arabia, the arrest has been something of a shock — mostly because the couple was thousands of miles apart.
Not all Saudis disagree with the harsh punishment. The Washington Post is reporting that at least one Saudi newspaper, Arab News, thought Abu Sin got what was coming to him for making people “laugh at” the Kingdom.
On Sunday, out on bail, Abu Sin released a video apologizing, promising to not use the internet to violate Saudi law again, and said that he “repented” talking to members of the opposite sex online.
Crockett responded to Abu Sin’s legal trouble on her YouTube channel. She said that even though she didn’t know what he was saying most of the time “it didn’t seem harmful, or anything bad. I just was having a good time. He was having a good time,” and that, “I think he was just a kid.”
She called the “whole situation crazy and unfair,” but has said that she won’t do anything to help him because, according to Crockett, “That is not my place … it just seems really sketchy and I just don’t really want to get involved in that or get myself in trouble.”
“I do think this is messed-up,” she says in the video. “That is my opinion.”