Recently, Lebanese composer Samir Sfeir was vaccinated against coronavirus (COVID-19) in Saudi Arabia. However, many Saudi citizens have since expressed disapproval of Sfeir’s vaccination in their country, calling on the authorities to expel him.
The controversy started earlier this week when Sfeir announced that he had taken the vaccine in Saudi Arabia, a country that he has publicly criticized and mocked on more than one occasion.
In response, people in Saudi Arabia took to social media to call out the Lebanese composer on his offensive remarks, under the tag طرد_سمير_صفير_مطلب# (Expelling Samir Sfeir is a demand), which became a top-trending hashtag on Twitter.
Under the same tag, social media users shared old remarks that Sfeir had made years ago, including one where he accused Saudi Arabia of exporting terrorism, demanding action from the authorities.
“The issue is not whether or not he took the vaccine. Saudi Arabia is a state of law and justice, and it announced that any visitor takes the vaccine before entering and that the resident can also register and acquire the vaccine normally like the citizen…” one person tweeted.
“… The issue is, who is hosting a person who offended Saudi Arabia’s government and people, and why?” It’s worth noting that Sfeir is a resident of Saudi Arabia.
Some people even called for the punishment of the director of the office of the Saudi Information Ministry, Waleed Bafageeh, for inviting Sfeir to Saudi Arabia and honoring him despite the offensive remarks.
However, on Friday, Bafageeh addressed the controversy with a brief statement, saying that the picture circulating of him alongside Sfeir “was taken by chance in a restaurant in Jeddah.”
“I have no personal relationship with him, I have no role or relation to his arrival or residence, and I’ve been retired from government work for 9 months,” he said.
Additionally, the Saudi Health Ministry responded to some comments questioning Sfeir’s eligibility to take the vaccine in Saudi Arabia.
The Ministry clarified in a statement, without naming Sfeir, that he is “a resident of Saudi Arabia with a valid residence permit under the sponsorship of a private company and falls within the age groups covered by the vaccine for this stage.”