Friday, November 30, 2007

Flogged for being raped: A teenage girl was sentenced to 200 lashes after being gang raped in Saudi Arabia

Flogged for being raped: A teenage girl was sentenced to 200 lashes after being gang raped in Saudi Arabia | the Daily Mail
The pressure group Human Rights Watch has just released a transcript of an interview which the Qatif girl gave to one of its workers.

Her account reveals the horrific details of the original ordeal and how, having gone to the police, she was abused and demonised by the Saudi judicial system.

The attack took place in February last year and had its roots in a typical Saudi teenage arrangement which in the West would seem odd, but is a way of getting round the strict Islamic sex segregation laws.

Forbidden from approaching young women directly, young men make contact by publicly displaying their own mobile phone numbers on cards as they pass in the street or by dropping the cards through open car windows.

Others make contact using their phone's Bluetooth technology, which allows users to send messages to nearby mobile phones without knowing the telephone number.

"I had a relationship with someone on the phone," recalled the Qatif girl.

"It started when we were both 16. I had never seen him before, I just knew his voice. Then he started to threaten me and I got afraid.

"He threatened to tell my family about the relationship. Because of the threats and fear, I agreed to give him a photo of myself."

But when the girl wed another young man she became worried about the photo she had given to her "ex-boyfriend".

"I asked him for the photo back but he refused. He said: 'I'll give you the photo on the condition that you come out with me in my car.'

"I told him we could meet at a souk [market] near my neighbourhood in Qatif."

She recalled: "He started to drive me home, and when were about to turn the corner to my house, another car stopped right in front of our car.

"Two people got out of their car and stood on either side of our car. The man on my side had a knife.

"They tried to open our door. I told the individual with me not to open the door, but he did. He let them come in. I screamed."

The ordeal had begun.

"One of the men brought a knife to my throat. They told me not to speak. They pushed both of 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."

First, they took the girl's male companion from the car.

He was the victim of homosexual rape a number of times during the course of the evening.

"I was so afraid," the girl said.

"Then they forced me out of the car. They pushed me really hard. I yelled out: 'Where are you taking me? I'm like your sister.'"

They took her to a building. Then two men came in and stripped her.

"The first man with the knife raped me. I was destroyed. I tried to force them off but I couldn't. Another man came in and did the same thing to me. I didn't even feel anything after that."

For two hours the girl begged the two men to take her home.

"I told them that it was late and that my family would be asking about me.

Then I saw a third man come into the room. There was a lot of violence.

After the third man came in, a fourth came. He slapped me and tried to choke me.

"The fifth and sixth ones were the most abusive. The fifth one took a photo of me like this. After the seventh one, I couldn't feel my body any more. I didn't know what to do. When a very fat man was on top of me I could no longer breathe."

Before she was eventually taken home by the gang, she was raped again by all seven attackers.

"They took my mobile and saw my husband's picture in my wallet.

"When I got out of the car [at her home], I couldn't even walk. I rang the doorbell and my mother opened the door. She said: 'You look tired.'

"She thought I was with my husband.

"I went to the hospital the next day. I didn't eat for one week after that, just drank water. I didn't tell anyone, but I would see the rapists faces in my sleep."

However, the story began to leak out.

"The criminals started talking about it in my neighbourhood. They thought my husband would divorce me. They wanted to ruin my reputation. Slowly, my husband started to know what had happened."

But he stood by her, outraged at what the men had done and the fact they were going unpunished.

"Two of the criminals were walking round our neighbourhood, right in front of me," her husband said.

He complained to the police on four occasions before anything was done.
"At the first session, the judges said to me: 'What kind of relationship did you have with this individual [the man she originally agreed to meet]? Why did you leave the house? Do you know these men?'

"They asked me to describe the situation. They yelled at me. They were insulting. The judge refused to allow my husband in the room with me.

"One judge told me I was a liar because I didn't remember the dates well. They kept saying: 'Why did you leave the house? Why didn't you tell your husband where you were going?'"

The second session, in October last year, proved to be even more shocking.

Four of the attackers - the three others were not found - were given sentences of between one and five years and between 80 and 1,000 lashes.

They were convicted only of kidnapping because the prosecution could not prove rape even though the video images taken on the mobile phone during the attack were presented to the judges.

"I thought these people shouldn't even live," said their victim.

"I thought they would get a minimum of 20 years."

Then the senior judge turned to her and her male companion on the night of the gang rape.

"He said: 'You get 90 lashes. You should thank God you're not in prison.'

"I asked him why and he said: "You know why. Because mingling begets evil.' "

She had been convicted under the khalwa - Sharia law which forbids any woman from being alone in the company of a male to whom she is not related.

"Don't you have any dignity?" her husband demanded of the judges. It was no good. And worse was to follow. The girl grew suicidal. Her own brother blamed her for the attack and his family's "shame".

"He hit me and tried to kill me," she said.
Judge Sa'd al-Muhanna also banned her lawyer, Abdul Rahman al-Laham, from the courtroom and from representing her in future for allegedly raising his voice in court.

His licence to practise has been suspended and his passport seized.

He faces a further hearing before a Ministry of Justice disciplinary committee in Riyadh next week for appearing regularly on television and talking about the case.

Overnight, though, the Qatif girl's case became a matter of international interest.

How on earth could the Saudi authorities justify such behaviour?

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