Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nightmare Rape Meets Saudi Y "Utopia"

The illustrious "blueblood" cum Citibank bigwig Alwaleed Al-Talal, once described his kingdom as "Utopia" - we'll footnote that For Royal Men ... if you want to find justice, wealth or even utopia in Saudi Arabia, you'd better show your y chromosomes - even if you're born there...

Someone at the top must be in a state of shock. Not about the brutal gang-rape of a 19-year-old by seven Saudi thugs, or the rape of the male who was driving her home. Not about a judge meting out the brutal "punishment" of 200 lashes on the victim, plus six months prison. Not about her brother attempting to kill her for "shaming" her family by being raped at knife-point. Not about the initial sentence in which one of her rapists was given fewer lashes than she was. Not about doubling her sentence only because she told her story to "the media". Not even that this punishment has no basis in the Shari'a or in the Qur'an or in Islam - except insofar as they impose a "false Shari'a" worse than anything David Horowitz could dream up.

No. Saudi royal sensibilities are shocked that the rest of the world doesn't think 200 lashes and six months in jail is a suitable punishment for being in a car with a man who is not her relative. So they came up with a solution. Now the Saudis changed their story, and it's not just about her being in a car with a relative. The "real story" now is that she is an "adulteress." So this is simply a different way of administering the Scarlet Letter.

Now the Saudi Ministry of Justice issued a statement in defense ofthe decision to punish the gang-rape victim with what could only be described as "cruel and unusual", to say the least - definitely draconian - by saying she "deserved" 200 lashes and 6 months in jail. For being what Greta van Susteren once termed "a floozy." The statement implied "that the woman had owned up to having an extramarital affair with the man in the car."

"She admitted to ... exchanging sinful relations," the statement said, adding
the woman was in state of undress with the man in the car before the attack took

While her own testimony, both in court and to Human Rights Watch and the press, in an ABC News report, stated:

"I had a relationship with someone on the phone. We were both 16. I had never
seen him before. I just knew his voice. He started to threaten me, and I got
afraid. He threatened to tell my family about the relationship... "

She only went to meet the young man to retrieve a photo of herself to prevent him from blackmailing her. Because women by law can't drive in Saudi Arabia, he was her only way home. The 2 were kidnapped within minutes of reaching her home. As she describes,

"One of the men brought a knife to my throat. They told me not to speak. They
pushed us to the back of the car and started driving. We drove a lot, but I
didn't see anything since my head was forced down.
"They took us to an area
... with lots of palm trees. No one was there. If you kill someone there, no one
would know about it. They took out the man with me, and I stayed in the car. I
was so afraid. They forced me out of the car. They pushed me really hard ...
took me to a dark place. Then two men came in. They said, 'What are you going to
do? Take off your abaya.' They forced my clothes off. The first man with the
knife raped me. I was destroyed. If I tried to escape, I don't even know where I
would go. I tried to force them off but I couldn't."

The rest is even worse, as the whole world now knows. Yet the Saudi Ministry of Justice has the guts to claim that her testimony, from which the above is pretty much the same, admits "guilt" to "sinful relations", which the "official press" interprets as an extramarital affair. So again, the Saudi government wants to show that she "deserved" those 200 lashes, while they further smear her reputation.

I guess wearing a black cloak is no guarantee of protection from rape, or from being publicly humiliated with libelous statements. So what then is the point of the "abaya"? Why not ask a Saudi woman?

Hatoon al-Fassi, a history lecturer at King Saud university in Riyadh and
another women rights activist, agreed that women suffer from the lack of written
laws, which subjects rulings to the discretion of judges. "It all depends on the
reasoning of the judge," she told AFP. "It is good that the case has taken an
international dimension. It is shameful that such a case could have stayed
unspoken of... This is a ruling that has treated the victim as a culprit," she
said. "Such logic is so distant from Islam. It is the result of a
male-chauvinist reasoning," she charged.

"The woman does not have the right to represent herself in a court. She enters the court covered entirely in black. Some judges do not even allow her to speak," she said.

The victim's husband describes her situation, and how the court railroaded her.

The events ended her pursuit of an education past high school, he said. "Her
situation keeps changing from bad to worse," he said. "You could say she's a
crushed human being." "The court proceedings were like a spectacle at times," he
said. "The criminals were allowed in the same room as my wife. They were allowed
to make all kinds of offensive gestures and give her dirty and threatening
looks." Of the three judges at the trial, one of them "was mean and from the
beginning dealt with my wife as guilty person who had done something wrong," he

It's not even her word against theirs. It's their word against ... a standing, mute, black-cloaked object. The judge was actually on the rapists' side, saying that she "brought it on" by being in a car with a man not a member of her family. Even though she was kidnapped along with the young man with her. But now the Saudi Ministry of Justice one-ups the judge, accusing her, against her own sworn testimony, of not only adultery, but being in "a state of undress", while riding home in a car in Saudi Arabia, no less. And this is supposed to "defend" the Saudis' position. So of course the woman is supposed, in their view, to be "of ill repute" and hence, "fair game" for gang-rape.

But again, she couldn't actually tell her story. It's not even her word against theirs. It's their word against ... a standing, mute, black-cloaked object. Women in Saudi Arabia can't speak in a court of law. A lawyer, or another man, have to speak for them. So imagine what that means when the judge summarily removes her attorney from the case. She becomes a mute, standing object draped in black. So the only testimony that can be heard is not that of the victim, but of the perpetrator.

Along with the young woman's sentence, the General Court of Qatif confiscated
the license of her attorney, Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, a lawyer known for taking on
controversial cases that push back against Saudi Arabia's strictly interpreted
system of sharia, or Islamic law.
"Asking me to appear in front of a
disciplinary committee at the Ministry of Justice ... is a punishment for taking
human rights cases against some institutions," Al-Lahem
told Arab News

The ministry also stressed the Saudi judicial system was based on Islamic law derived from the holy Koran and that a court ruling in the kingdom was only made after both sides in a case are given a fair and balanced hearing.

And since there were "no confessions" and "no witnesses", there was not much of a case, according to the Saudi government. Right - the rapists conveniently withdrew their confessions when the thought of 100+ lashes began to sink in. And since their victim has no voice, their heads would remain safely on their necks.

On the other hand, a columnist in the Philadelphia Bulletin has opined:

The West has continuously failed to understand that the primary reason for the
Arab world's anti-Americanism is not because of our freedom, liberties and way
of life but because we are seen as meddling in the internal and sovereign
affairs of Arab countries.
Whether we like it or not, the Middle East, and
Saudi Arabia in particular, controls of much of the world's oil supply. Until
that situation changes, we would do well to heed the old adage "It's not what
you say; it's how you say it."

He's probably cool with Bush's original assessment: "astonishing." But until someone attacks and puts pressure on abusive governments, they will continue to act as they do without a care in the world. In the absence of conscience, what can human beings rely on if not social condemnation for abuse? The "Girl of Qatif", a Shi'a in a Sunni world, came before the court of the world because the Saudis do not hear. To remain silent on such abuse is to put oil before conscience, lucre before the soul.

It's not enough that Saudi Arabia has to smear a traumatized, innocent, and very young woman in a place where being smeared means being subhuman, "fair game" for brutality. They also smear Islam and the Qur'an, too, by claiming that this "justice system" is based on Islamic law. Since when did Saudi Arabia have anything to do with Islamic Law or the Qur'an, except in name only? Don't just blame David Horowitz...

200 lashes is not a punishment for any crime in the Qur'an. (And neither is stoning or beheading.) Being in the proximity of a man not a relative is also not a crime in the Qur'an. Nor does the Qur'an specifically require a woman to cover her face, or even her hair (except by interpretation of a word that means "ornaments"). But the Qur'an does mention the cutting off of hands for theft - which is also mentioned in the old Testament. But a greater law is "the rule of law must be by mutual agreement and discussion between you all." They call it "shura" and it's reduced under the Saudis to a few men lining up to politely ask for some favors from royals. What a farce!

Dictatorship is in fact against the Qur'an's guidance, if one were to take it seriously. But the Saudi royals wouldn't dare apply the real Shari'a. After all, they consider the country's resources as their pocket money. If the Shari'a were applied, imagine how many hands would fly... and considering the way judges lord it over their victims, they'd better watch their own necks .. or at least, backs.

As for the world's pressure on this case, at least it caused the Saudi delegation to the peace talks in Annapolis "embarrassment", according to sources. And judging by what "shame" means to a woman there, perhaps "embarrassment" on a public stage will have some impact on a man - or better yet, a few powerful men.

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