Monday, December 17, 2007

Saudi King Pardons "Qatif girl" Gang Raped In Sectarian Hate Crime

Per French news agency AFP, Saudi King Abdullah has "pardoned" the 19 year-old Shiite woman AKA the Qatif girl who was brutally raped by 5 Sunni men.

I've discussed this case at length in my series Saudi Law Can't Punish Female Victims Too Harshly & Gay Sex Is OK As Long As It's Rape By Married Men Also Raping A Woman Parts I, II and III. Though this "pardon" may be the most transparent kind of PR ploy, a kind of justice has been served.

It's justice served late and begrudgingly. The only way this could happen is due to
three extraordinarily courageous people: the woman, her husband and her lawyer. Each stood up to a strict patriarchal theocracy. This was without precedent amongst those strict fundamentalist Sharia-governed Muslim countries i.e. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, etc.

Unable to properly present his case in any way whatsoever, this woman's lawyer went public with details of this atrocity and her mistreatment at the hands of the Saudi Sharia courts. Most of the world was outraged. The Sunni judges retaliated. The court increased her punishment as well as that of her attackers. Still these rapists weren't punished to the fullest extent of the law. More AFP:

A rape conviction carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but the court did not impose it due to the "lack of witnesses" and the "absence of confessions," the justice ministry said last month.
I guess the rapists' cell phone video didn't count.

That she had to be pardoned at all when she did nothing wrong begs the question: Will this have any effect on the Saudi's historically poor treatment of women or is this a one off? Could this be a kind of Tiananmen Square moment for Saudi women? I live in hope but I doubt it. The first key indication will be how she is regarded by other women her community. Will she be treated as one worthy of respect or as a pariah?

King Abdullah wants this story to disappear already. His government botched this case from the start and he knows it.
Years will pass before we will know if this case has any long term impact on Saudi law or culture. Other than the extremely rare exception, the Saudi legal system is entirely self-reporting. We normally only know what the Saudis want us to know and when they want then want us to know it.

We'll be watching...