Saudi Arabia’s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, known as “Haia” in the Wahhabi Kingdom, has arrived on Twitter under the verified username @PvGovSa.
“Abdul Rahman Al-Sanad, president of the commission, inaugurated the account and announced the formation of a higher committee for media and public relations to improve the Haia’s public image,” the Saudi Gazette reports.
The group’s initial tweet read, “In the name of Allah and Allah’s blessing kicks off the official account of the General Presidency for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice on Twitter asking Allah to benefit by everyone.”
Haia is the Saudi Arabian government’s “religious police” that seeks to enforce the customs of the Koranic Sharia law within the country.
The religious entity patrols the streets ensuring that individuals, particularly women, are maintaining a Sharia-compliant lifestyle, which includes dressing properly (wearing a full cloak) and remaining separated from men at all times. The Haia agency is also known for enforcing Saudi Arabia’s ban on female automobile drivers.
Haia can arrest anyone for violating Islamic customs and dietary laws, such as women smoking, couples celebrating Valentine’s Day, or either gender eating pork or consuming alcohol.
Haia focuses on five areas of enforcement, according to its agency head: “preserving Islam, preventing blackmail, combating sorcery, fighting human trafficking, and ensuring that no one disobeys the country’s rulers,” the Christian Science Monitor has reported.
The policing unit maintains legitimacy through the order of the Saudi King. The chief of Haia reports directly to King Salman, and the agency has a budget of around $400 million, reports have stated.
Several controversial acts have embroiled the Sharia-enforcement agency over the years.
In 2002, 15 young Saudi girls died from burns and smoke inhalation after the religious police prevented them from leaving their school while it was on fire. A spokesperson explained that the girls were “not properly covered,” and they worried that there would be inappropriate contact between the young women and emergency personnel.
In 2007, the religious police allegedly arrested a man and then continued to beat him to death for the offense of having alcohol at his residence.
In congratulating the appointment of Haia’s new chief in February, Saudi King Faisal bin Salman urged the powerful entity to institute reforms and conduct itself with “kindness and gentle behavior,” Arab News reported.