The awkward incident, the video of which has been widely shared, happened during the 50th International Chemistry Olympiad which was co-hosted by Slovakia and the Czech Republic and ended on Sunday. As part of the ceremony to celebrate the winners, they were called to stand before the audience holding their national flags before being adorned with medals they won.
Among the second group of silver medalists was Bader Sulman al-Mulhim, representing Saudi Arabia. Initially he was called to stand next to a student from Ukraine. But then Raz Lotan, from Israel, was called and stood right next to Mulhim while holding the Israeli flag, which apparently put the Saudi in an difficult position.
While the ensuing scene may have looked ridiculous, association with anything Israeli may have serious consequences in some Arab countries. For instance, last year Iraq’s Miss Universe contestant Sarah Idan had to go into hiding at home after her joint selfie with Israel’s Adar Gandelsman sparked fury in her home country.
Mulhim apparently decided to insulate himself from possible criticism and simply went to the other side of the line – where he inevitably stood next to Arshia Khademi from Iran, Saudi Arabia’s arch-enemy.