A Saudi Arabian court originally sentenced a victim of a gang rape to six months in jail and 90 lashes, after she reported her rape, because authorities said she was in the company of a male non-family member at the time her gang rapists attacked her, in violation of Saudi gender segregation rules. When she had the temerity to appeal against this travesty, her sentence was increased by an appellate court to inflict 200 rather than 90 lashes. That’s enough to cause severe damage and scarring. It’s so severe that it easily qualifies as torture. The punishment is transparently a pretext for retaliation against her for reporting the rape, since Saudis not infrequently skirt their government’s rule against gender-mixing, and receive far less punishment than did the rape victim.
This sentence is outrageous on many levels. It’s also a violation of Saudi Arabia’s treaty commitments not to engage in torture, and to follow basic human rights norms observed throughout the world, including in other Muslim countries like Indonesia. Saudi Arabia has signed the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment (CAT) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The Saudis signed the latter treaty with reservations, citing the need to preserve Islamic law.
In truth, nothing in the Koran justifies this savage and pretextual verdict. But even if the verdict were rooted in religious or cultural tradition, that would be no excuse. The Old Testament is full of genocide, but you don’t see it being cited to justify genocide today.
We need more people like Charles Napier. He is the British general who helped put an end to the terrible Indian practice of burning widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres. The story for which Napier is famous involves a delegation of Hindu locals approaching him and complaining about prohibition of suttee, by British authorities. This was the custom of burning widows alive on the funeral pyres of their husbands. He responded:
- “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”
This kooky action by Saudi Arabia’s General Court in Qatif is reminiscent of an earlier outrage perpetrated by the Saudi religious police, in which they violently blocked little girls from leaving a burning school lest unrelated males see them, resulting in 15 deaths. Saudi public outrage in response to that tragedy was intense, but it appears to have had no lasting effect on the Saudi government’s mistreatment of women. The same brutal stupidity continues in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is an absolute monarchy, not one governed by the rule of law. In newspaper ads taken out in The Washington Post, the Saudi Embassy claims the Saudi government is responsive to public opinion on “main street.” That’s total bunk.