The sad fate of Harry Nicolaides
THE first I ever heard of the Australian writer Harry Nicolaides was when he emailed me in 2007 from Riyadh when I was still working at Arab News in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He told me that he was a teacher at the Al Yamamah College there, and asked me if the paper would be interested in details of the raid by the religious police (muttawaen) on a school play put on by the students in November 2006. There had been a general scuffle, with fisticuffs, and had been filmed by a student with a cellphone. Unsurprisingly, the video clip was soon circulating on the Internet and via e-mail.
Regular police were quickly called in and several of the religious police and students were arrested. A thorough investigation was promised, but I cannot really remember what happened in the end. In any event, Arab News wrote about what happened only once.
I wrote back to him and asked him for more details, but he was not able to provide us with any. I heard from him again a few months later when he emailed me to say he was leaving the Kingdom, heading back to Australia, and could I find some recent pictures if public beheadings for a story he was writing on the Saudi justice system! I was astonished at his request, as I thought he, having lived in Riyadh for a year, should have known that it was illegal to photograph beheadings, and that if caught one could be jailed for doing so.
I wrote back telling him “no” we didn’t have such photos, and doubted he would be able to find any.