Saudi Arabia authorities have begun an investigation after a selfie surfaced online showing a boy next to what appeared to be his dead grandfather lying in a hospital bed, reported Gulf News on Wednesday. The photo, posted to social media, set off a firestorm of criticism from users.
The grainy photo shows the boy, his tongue sticking partially out, leaning over a man with his mouth agape lying down. The caption of the photograph reportedly reads "Good Bye, Grandfather." Above the post is a frowning emoticon with the description "feeling sad."
â€” Gulf News (@gulf_news) July 1, 2015
Users reportedly responded with condemnation of the photo, saying the hospital had failed to respect the dead man. A Saudi official in the area confirmed an investigation was underway.
"The health authorities in Madinah are looking into the case and assessing whether the selfie was taken at a hospital in the area," Abdul Razak Hafedh, the head of public relations and media in the Madinah area, said to Saudi daily Al Watan, via Gulf News.
The official suggested that consequences would come should the investigation reveal that people failed to prevent the selfie from being taken.
"Should that be the case, action will certainly be taken against all culprits for allowing or failing to prevent such an immoral act,” Hafedh said Al Watan reported. “The security authorities will also be alerted to take action against the teenager for his irresponsible behavior and for his violation of public morals."
Lawyer Saud Al Harbi told Al Watan that the boy's action could be a legally punishable offense. "It is a terrible provocation of common feelings and a flagrant violation of public morals," he said. "The society completely rejects such attitudes that are not condoned in any way by its values or traditions."
This is not the first time a selfie has set off criticism in Saudi Arabia. In April, a selfie of a well-dressed man next to a poor migrant girl sifting through trash sparked outrage in the country, according to the Daily Mail. The caption of the Snapchat picture mocked both the girl and a soccer team. The man has since apologized and more than $100,000 has been pledged to the girl online, reported the BBC.