Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Rape Case in Saudi Arabia Explodes into International Headlines

by Patricia Meehan Vásquez from The Women's International Perspective (US: California)

Qatif is a center of the very large Shia minority in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia, near where I lived for almost eight years. Most Saudis practice the Wahhabi interpretation of Sunni Islam. Back then, I often saw women, both Westerners and non-Saudi Arabs, pulled off the streets and hauled to jail for wearing “immodest” clothing that did not completely hide all but their faces. On one of my first ordinary shopping trips, I stood next to a Saudi woman as she was grabbed by the religious police and dragged off to the police station (she had just spanked her badly misbehaving son of about five). Her arrest was at the urging of the shop owner whose fragile merchandise was being pulled off his shelves and smashed on the floor. I learned the lesson quickly: in Saudi, you never humiliate a male, even if he is your own spoiled child! Thieves’ hands were occasionally lopped off in the public square on Fridays, the day of rest, and Scandinavian stewardesses showing their blonde hair while shopping in the souk (market) were unceremoniously escorted to the square where their tresses were hacked off publicly so all could witness the Wahhabi version of Islamic justice.

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