Saudi Rape Victim Warned of Execution if She Appeals Lashing Punishment Again

Human Rights Watch has the latest on “Qatif Girl”, the young rape victim who was sentenced to 90 lashes for being in a car with a male non-relative, and whose punishment was increased to 200 lashes when she first appealed:

On November 27, Okaz newspaper published an interview with Judge Dr. Ibrahim bin Salih al-Khudairi of the Riyadh Appeals Court, in which he said that he would have sentenced her to death. The Riyadh Appeals Court, and possibly Judge al-Khudairi, is the court that will consider an appeal that the Saudi woman said she intends to file.

The desire to kill women is a bit of a fetish with al-Khudairi; back in 2002 he was calling for the death of a Tunisian singer known as Zikra:

A popular Arab singer, against whom a Saudi cleric has called for the death penalty for comparing her sufferings to those of the Prophet Mohammad, has denied showing a lack of respect for the Muslims’ revered prophet, a newspaper reported.

…Al-Hayat quoted Sheikh Ibrahim al-Khudairi, a judge at Riyadh’s Islamic High Court, as saying the singer’s remarks were “an act of apostasy which deserves punishment by execution.”

Al-Khudairi is also in favour of enforced divorce when relatives disapprove of a marriage between two people of different social status – an issue which Qatif Girl’s now-suspended lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem has previously tackled:

Al-Khudairi said that according to Islamic religious law, even if a man and woman are incompatible in status they are nonetheless permitted to marry and live together in peace if their relatives consent to this. He added, however, that in a case in which a relative of the husband or of the wife is opposed to the marriage, and such opposition might cause rivalry or damage, Saudi law follows the Sunna of the Prophet – that is, in order to prevent conflict, it requires that the marriage be ended, in order to safeguard the lives and the future of their children, and also in order to prevent likely damage to the tribe of either the husband or the wife.

He also believes that the US Arabic television station al-Hurra “spreads corruption and those working with it are American agents”, and that therefore it is forbidden to watch it.

Meanwhile, HRW has condemned the two official statements published in English by the Saudi Ministry of Justice as an attempt to “demonize” Qatif Girl. The statements – whose authors are too delicate to use the word “rape”, preferring “assault” or “the incident” – maintain that the woman was having a tryst with a lover when the two of them were set upon by a gang. They also tell us that her husband complained to the police after she “admitted the incident,” suggesting that he colluded with her prosecution. I blogged the statements here.

The Ministry of Justice apparently believes these details put its sadistic plans for the rape victim in a better light. Of course, they don’t, and wouldn’t even if they were true – which they’re not. In fact, the woman only met the man because he had a photo of her which she wanted to reclaim, and her husband has stood by her. A recent interview with Qatif Girl in the UK Independent has further details:

“The criminals started talking about it [the rape] in my neighbourhood. They thought my husband would divorce me. They wanted to ruin my reputation. I was trying to fix something by getting the photo back and something worse happened.”

…Against her attackers’ expectations, the girl’s husband did not divorce her when news of the attack reached him; instead he sought justice through the courts.

Her husband recalls the frustration of seeing his wife’s attackers walking free. “Two of the criminals were walking around in our neighbourhood right in front of me. They attended funerals and weddings. They [the police] should have arrested them out of respect for us. I called the police and told them, ‘Find me a solution. The criminals are out on the street. What if they try to kidnap her again?’ The police officer said, ‘You go find them and investigate’.”

The police were reluctant to act because the woman and her husband are Shia Muslims. Her husband was outraged by the judges’ attitude at the original trial:

Her appalling treatment was summed up in one exchange between her husband and the judges at the first sentencing. “It was like she was the criminal,” he remembered. “When the judges passed down the sentence, I asked them, ‘Don’t you have any dignity?'”

Qatif girl also faces the possibility of being tried through shariah courts, and she has already survived one attempt to murder her by her brother.