Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Women in Islam: The Pattern

Here's something that has been in the news.

First, let me begin reviewing the first several paragraphs of Saudi king pardons rape victim. (This article appears to have been rewritten since it was accessed; I see that a lot at Yahoo news.)

By ABDULLAH SHIHRI, Associated Press Writer

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - A gang-rape victim who was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes for being alone with a man not related to her was pardoned by the Saudi king after the case sparked rare criticism from the United States, the kingdom's top ally.

Outrage over the sentence prompted unusually strong comments from President Bush, who said that if the same thing had happened to one of his daughters, he would be "angry" at a government that didn't protect the victim. The White House called the sentence "outrageous."

In past weeks, Saudi officials have bristled at the criticism of what they consider an internal affair — but also appeared wary of hurting their image in the United States.

There's nothing surprising that the Saudi Kingdom comes up with a punishment of the victim in a rape case -- that's how the KSA operates.

What is surprising is that 1) Bush said something about his friends, 2) his friends were concerned about what Bush said, and 3) the victim got pardoned.

Bush's National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said the White House thinks the Saudi king "he made the right decision" by pardoning the woman.

With the pardon, King Abdullah appeared to be aiming at relieving the pressure from the United States without being seen to criticize Saudi Arabia's conservative legal system, a stronghold of powerful clerics adhering to the strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

This is interesting. The Saudi king, if you read Saudi law, is an absolute monarch. As long as he can justify what he wants to do by citing the Koran and Sharia, he doesn't have to explain "nuthin' to nobody". But, it is widely perceived that the king owes his power to the clerics, specifically to the "conservative" (extremist) Wahhabists, so he doesn't want to offend them. Again, if you read Saudi law -- there's a link in the sidebar to the KSA embassy, which has plenty of information -- all these officials, whether military or civilian, including the religious clerics, basically serve at the convenience of the king. The king is the ultimate lawmaking, law-interpreting, and law-enforcing authority in the kingdom -- as I said, an absolute monarch.

For a little background, let's look at an article in the Telegraph from last month: Saudi rape victim attacked by shamed brother. (I reproduce the article in its entirety.)

By Catherine Elsworth in Los Angeles

A Saudi woman sentenced to 200 lashes after she was gang-raped claims her brother tried to kill her when he learned of the attack.

The woman, known only as Qatif Girl after the area where the crime occurred, also described how she tried to commit suicide after the assault. The interview was recorded by Human Rights Watch in December 2006 and released recently.

"Everyone looks at me as if I'm wrong. I couldn't even continue my studies. I wanted to die. I tried to commit suicide twice," the woman said of the aftermath of the attack in which she was raped at knifepoint by seven men as a former boyfriend was driving her home.

Originally sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man who was not a relative, her punishment was increased to 200 lashes and six months in jail after she spoke out publicly about her case.

This is a woman's plight in the progressiveness of strict Wahhabi Islam. (It is not unlike what happens when the US or Israel gets hit by terrorists: dancing in the streets as the victim gets blamed.)

Saudi authorities saw it as an "attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media", according to the English language Arab News. They also stripped her lawyer of his licence and banned him from representing the woman.

Strip the lawyer of his license: well, that's fair! I'm just waiting for the Bush Administration to try that in the Sibel Edmonds case. Bet Sheikh bin Mahfouz wishes he could do that to Rachel Ehrenfeld!

The case prompted an international outcry, with Human Rights Watch calling on King Abdullah to "immediately void the verdict and drop all charges against the rape victim". But the country's Ministry of Justice has defended the woman's punishment, declaring her to be an adulteress who "provoked the attack" because she was "indecently dressed".

Remember, when there were rulings like this in the American judicial system -- the rulings were never that bad, but they often blamed the victim for the way she was dressed, etc. -- the Left was livid. Now I begin to wonder: Was it in fact the Left? Or was it decent folks on the Right who finally got fed up with it?

This is quality:

The attackers received sentences ranging from two to nine years after being convicted of kidnapping, apparently because prosecutors could not prove rape, according to HRW which reports the judges ignored evidence from a mobile phone video taken by the men during the assault.

I guess you need four male witnesses -- not a video of the attack!

You may want to skip this next part: the details of the attack.... (I fixed a minor error with the punctuation.)

In her interview, the woman describes how she had agreed to meet a former boyfriend because she wanted to retrieve a photograph she had given him before she got married.

"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."

After they met, the man began to drive her home, she said. "We were 15 minutes from my house. I told him that I was afraid and that he should speed up. We were about to turn the corner to my house when they [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.

"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 were taken to a deserted area with "lots of palm trees", the woman said. "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. I yelled, 'where are you taking me? I'm like your sister.'

"They took me to a dark place. Then two men came in. They said 'what are you going to do?' 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 man with the stick came in and did the same thing to me... I didn't even feel anything after that. I spent two hours begging them to take me 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. They knew that I was married and asked for my name but I refused. After the third man came in, a fourth came. He slapped me and tried to choke me. The fifth one took a photo of me. I tried to cover my face but they didn't let me. Two of them had their faces completely covered so you could only see their eyes. The sixth one was covered. He hit me. The fifth and sixth ones were the most abusive.

"After the seventh, I couldn't feel my body anymore. I didn't know what to do. Then a very fat man came I kept asking them the time. At that point it was 1am. All seven came back and raped me again. Then they took me home. They drove me in their car. They took my mobile and said that if I wanted it back, I would have to call them. They saw my husband's photo in my wallet when they were searching through my things.

When I got out of the car, 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."

A disturbing read. The aftermath....

The woman said she did not eat for a week after the attack and needed sleeping pills.

The attackers began talking about the assault in the community, she recalled, suggesting her husband would divorce her.

"They wanted to ruin my reputation. Slowly my husband started to know what had happened. Four months later, we started a case. My family heard about the case. My brother hit me and tried to kill me."

During the trial, the woman was asked about her relationship with the man she was with and whether she knew her attackers, she told HRW.

Investigators yelled at and insulted her and constantly asked why she had not told her husband where she was going.

Of the punishment handed to the men, she said: "I thought these people shouldn't even live. I thought they would get a minimum of 20 years. I prayed that they wouldn't even live."

The victim gets raped again by the judicial system. Saudi Arabia and Islamic law in a nutshell.

According to HRW, to escape her punishment the woman requires a pardon from King Abdullah himself or the area's provincial governor. The punishment is also due to be reviewed by the Supreme Judiciary Council.

Yeah, pardon me, too, King!

From Al Jazeera: Saudi king 'pardons' rape victim. (Again, I reproduce the article in its entirety.)

A teenage gang-rape victim in Saudi Arabia, sentenced to 200 lashes and a jail term for being alone with a man unrelated to her, has reportedly been pardoned by King Abdullah.

A Saudi newspaper said on Monday that the 19-year-old's sentence and a six-month jail term had been quashed.

Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Sheik, the Saudi justice minister, told Al Jazirah newspaper that the pardon does not mean the king doubted the country's judges, but instead acted in the "interests of the people".

The girl's sentencing had triggered international outrage.

"The king always looks into alleviating the suffering of the citizens when he becomes sure that these verdicts will leave psychological effects on the convicted people, though he is convinced and sure that the verdicts were fair."

The king should have doubted the country's judges, and fired them all. The blind leading the blind....

Still, for however far out in the darkness the kingdom is, with this pardon, it is taking a small step in the general direction of the light, and this should be seen for what it is.

Increased sentencing

The girl and a man were in a car when they were kidnapped and raped at knifepoint by seven men in 2006.

The girl, who was 18 at the time of the rape, was originally sentenced to 90 lashes in October 2006 for being alone with the man - which is against the Saudi's strict interpretation of Islamic law.

The rapists were sentenced to between one and five years.

The Supreme Judicial Council increased the girl's sentence to 200 lashes and six months in jail last month after she appealed, saying she had attempted "to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media".

The rapists also had their sentences increased to between two and nine years in November.

Waheed Hamzah Hashem, a professor at King Abdul Aziz University, told Al Jazeera that the king can intervene if it serves the interests of the people.

However he cautioned: "Don't think he acted because he felt the pressure of the international outcry.

"He acted because he felt that in this specific case there was some misunderstanding or misinterpretation by the judge and therefore he has to intervene in order to achieve justice for all."

A crock of... but for whatever reason, the new result is a little closer to justice.

Don't think this is kind of incident is isolated:

Parents chain young woman at Makkah home

JEDDAH, 5 December 2007 — Authorities in Makkah are investigating the case of a 19-year-old girl who left her home yesterday and climbed into a taxi with her feet in chains.

The driver of the taxi reported the girl to police after noticing the chains.

On questioning, the girl told the police that she was heading to meet her boyfriend, who had proposed to marry her but had been refused by her family.

The case has been transferred to the General Prosecution and Investigation Committee.

Makkah Police spokesman Maj. Abdul Muhsin Al-Mayman said that the Community Protection Office has been notified. "Parents should be more cautious about the safety of their children’s mental and physical health," he added.

Abdullah Al-Morai, a lecturer at the Um Al-Qura University in Makkah, said that chaining one’s children in such a demeaning way is against the teachings of Islam. He described it as an act of "ignorance."

Who will get punished? The family for chaining up the girl, or the girl for leaving the house without escort?

Elsewhere in the Islamic World:

Girl Axed to Death in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: A girl in Pakistan's Punjab province became victim of 'honour killing' when she was axed to death by her father and close relatives for allegedly having an affair with a boy of her locality.

The girl was killed after her father, Farooq Khan Baloch, became suspicious that his daughter was having an affair with Amjad, a youngster in Jhang tehsil in Punjab province.

Seeing them together, Farooq along with relatives Sher Khan, Asghar Khan and Riaz Khan, axed the girl to death, while the boy managed to escape, the Dawn daily reported.

The police have registered a case, it said. 'Honour killing' is widespread among rural Muslim tribes in Pakistan where the victim is mostly female. The spilling of blood under the garb of honour is mostly at the behest of close family members with the aim of undoing the perceived loss of wider family status owing to the actions of the victim.

Ghazala, a woman in Punjab province's Joharabad, was set on fire by her brother on 6 January 1999. She was murdered because her family suspected her of having an 'illicit' relationship with a neighbour.

Women in Pakistan face death by shooting, burning or killing with axes if they are deemed to have brought shame on the family. They are killed for supposed 'illicit' relationships, for marrying men of their choice, for divorcing husbands.

They are even murdered by their kin if they are raped as they are thereby deemed to have brought shame on their family. Often, the truth of the suspicion does not matter - merely the allegation is enough to bring dishonour on the family and therefore justifies the slaying.

One in four women beaten by male relatives

Doha -- Some 56 cases of family violence were reported in Qatar in 2005 and all of them were referred for legal action, a symposium was told here yesterday.

The Qatar Foundation for Women and Children reported an additional 53 cases of violence against women in the same year and a majority 34 related to Qatari families.

The fact that 34 incidents of family violence took place in the Qatari community and only 19 among expatriates is alarming since the population of non-Qataris here is huge, said Dr Kulthum Al Ghanem, from Qatar University, in a paper she presented at a symposium on 'Violence against Women'.

The symposium was held by the Supreme Council for Family Affairs at the Millennium Hotel to mark the International Day of Combating Violence against Women.

'We don't have extensive data on family violence since there is a lack of coordination between the agencies concerned,' she said. Al Ghanem said of the 65 court cases heard in 2005, 37 were in the family courts while five in the criminal courts.

In addition, a survey conducted recently revealed that 52 women tried to end their lives out of frustration. 'It points to a very dangerous trend especially as our society remains conservative,' she remarked.

A majority 53 per cent respondents to the survey said they had not heard of the Qatar Foundation for Women and Children, a body devoted to protecting their rights.

Talking of the 2005 statistics, Al Ghanem said only four women victims of family violence reported the matter to the law enforcement agencies while others remained mum.

In another survey, one-third of Qatari female respondents say it is okay to use aggression on women to keep them 'disciplined'. The survey, the first of its kind to be carried out in Qatar, was conducted by Qatar University covering 616 Qatari and 87 Arab expatriate female students recently.

Presenting the findings, Al Ghanem said 36.69 per cent of the interviewees favoured 'disciplining' women. The percentage was slightly lower at 34.12 in the case of female Arab expatriate students who believed otherwise.

Some 27.19 per cent of Qatari respondents said women needed to be protected by men since the former were not capable of looking after themselves. A majority 63 per cent said women need 'someone' to 'discipline' them.

Meanwhile, another survey revealed that one out of four female students at Qatar Univeristy has suffered some form of aggression from a male relative. The survey, conducted on 2,787 Qatari female students aged between 17 and 25, showed that 23 per cent suffered harassment and beating mainly from their kin. The majority of the cases remain unpunished, the survey says.

Women killed on suspicion, with token punishment

AMMAN, 26 November 2007 (IRIN) - A quarter of all women killed in Jordan for having an illicit relationship die merely because they were suspected of involvement in such a relationship, while only 15 per cent are killed after adultery is proven, a study by UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) has revealed.

The study was unveiled on 25 November to mark the UN global campaign entitled Sixteen Days of Activism to End Violence Against Women, organised by UNIFEM.

Whether victims turn out to have been virgins or not seems to make little difference to the sentences handed down to the perpetrators; the killers often get 6-12 months, in keeping with legal precedents.


There's a pattern here, folks....


anticant said...

A related thread:


For All Women Foundation said...

Amazing blog post, Y.D.

Ellen R. Sheeley, Author
"Reclaiming Honor in Jordan"

pela68 said...

Why am I not surprised?
Why am I feeling so ashamed of humanity?
Why do I think that some cultures is NOT equal to others- and not being ashamed of it?

Is this a cultural thing?- Which is bad.

Or is it a religious thing?- Which is worse.

Or is it an ideological thing? Which would be the baddest.

The answer is- All of the abowe!


Karen said...

Thank you for this informative and thoughtful post. With more voices such as yours, change might come sooner than (too much) later.

Karen Tintori, author
Unto the Daughters: The Legacy of an Honor Killing in a Sicilian-American Family