Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has pardoned a Saudi woman sentenced to 200 lashes after she was gang raped.
The woman, known only as “Qatif girl” after the area where the crime occurred, was raped at knife point by seven men as a former boyfriend drove her home.
She had been sentenced in October 2006 to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man who was not a relative but had her [punishment] increased to 200 lashes and six months in jail after she spoke out about her case.
As noted in yesterday’s LA Times, the move was not entirely unexpected:
Saudis are used to the public beheadings of murderers and amputations of the hands of pickpockets, but the Qatif girl’s ordeal embarrassed the country at a time Riyadh is negotiating major international business deals and emerging as a potential broker in Middle East peace talks. The government has said it will review the case, an indication that the king may move to overrule Islamic fundamentalists.
“Don’t expect big changes and sudden successes, but reform has taken root,” said Mishary A. Alnuaim, the vice dean of law and political science at King Saud University. “Modernizing religion is still slow. That’s the million-dollar question. You still find a lot of messages of intolerance.
Yeah, modernization sure moves at a glacial pace sometimes. Let’s hope it quickens, for the sake of all women who reside in the kingdom. Melissa further highlights the half-full aspect of the ruling:
According to the Saudi justice minister, Abdullah bin Muhammed al-Sheikh, the King remains “convinced and sure that the verdicts were fair.” Saudi Arabia remains a US ally, despite its appalling treatment of women and other widespread human rights abuses.
What, you didn’t actually expect institutional mistreatment of women and “widespread” human rights violations to actually mean something, when balanced against (short term) regional stability (and, of course, that sweet, sweet crude)? But at least we can be all but assured that Dubya went to bat for the victim at some point during all this, right?
President Bush expressed anger at the sentence earlier this month, saying he wondered how he would react if it had been one of his daughters. But he said he had not made his views known directly to the Saudi king, a U.S. ally.”
Feminist Peace Network acidly observes that “[e]xpressing astonishment and wondering how he would react if it was his daughters and failing to lodge a protest directly with the King himself is not an acceptable expression of “anger”, the word used by the article to describe his reaction.”
Hey, it’s the thought that counts.
Update: CAP’s Mara Rudman comments on the ruling: