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Thursday, March 08, 2007

SAUDI: What's Going On? May God Help Us

A Saudi woman who was kidnapped at knifepoint, gang-raped and then beaten by her brother has been sentenced to 90 lashes -- for a meeting a man who was not a relative, a newspaper reported on Monday.


In an interview with the Saudi Gazette, the 19-year-old said she was blackmailed a year ago into meeting a man who threatened to tell her family they were having a relationship outside wedlock, which is illegal in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom.

After driving off together from a shopping mall near her home, the woman and the man were stopped and abducted by a gang of men wielding kitchen knives who took them to a farm where she was raped 14 times by her captors.

Five men were arrested for the rape and given jail terms ranging from 10 months to five years by a panel of judges in the eastern city of Qatif, near the woman’s hometown.

But the judges also decided to sentence the woman, identified by the newspaper only as ‘G,’ and the man to lashes for being alone together in the car.

Unrelated men and women are forbidden from interacting in public in Saudi Arabia, which strictly enforces Islamic Sharia law.

‘G’ said one of the judges told she was lucky not to have been given jail time. ‘I was shocked at the verdict. I couldn’t believe my ears,’ said the woman, who has appealed against her sentence.

The woman also told the paper she tried to commit suicide because of her ordeal and was beaten by her younger brother because the rape had brought shame on their family.

Fuziyah Al Ouni, described as an activist by the paper, said she was outraged by the case. ‘By sentencing her to 90 lashes they are sending a message that she is guilty. No rape victim is guilty,’ she said.

There are severe legal restrictions on women in Saudi Arabia, including a strict dress code required outside the home and a ban on driving.

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