Saudi Arabia has strict laws on male guardianship and sex segregation.  Male guardianship simply means that every female must have a male guardian who has authority over her on practically everything.  Sex segregation means male and female don’t mix together.  In March this year, a court in Saudi Arabia sentenced a 75-year old widow from Syria now living in Saudi Arabia to 40 lashes of the cane, 4 months imprisonment, and deportation from Saudi Arabia for violating the sex segregation rule.

Saudi’s Al-Watan Daily reported that a religious police officer entered into the house of 75-year old Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi last year and found her with 2 unrelated men, Fahd and Hadian. Now under Saudi Arabia sex segregation law, that’s a no-no.

24-year old Fahd is the nephew of Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi’s late husband. When questioned, Fahd claimed that Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi had breastfed him since he was a baby.  Therefore in Islam he is considered to be a son, and thus he has a right to be in the house.

But what about 24-year old Hadian?  Fahd said he was delivering bread to Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi and Hadian was simply accompanying him in the delivery process.  However the religious police officer arrested all 3 of them.

Who are these religious police officers?  They come under the Commission for the Pormotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.  Their duties include enforcing dress codes, prayer times and of coure, the segregation of the sexes.

In March this year, the case was heard in court.  The judge ruled that Fahd is not the son of Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi through breastfeeding, and therefore had no right to be in a house with a woman.

The court sentenced Fahd to 4 months in prison and 40 lashes of the cane.  Hadian got 6 months in prison and 60 lashes of the cane.

How did the Saudi people react to this? Saudi women’s rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider said: “It’s made everybody angry because this is like a grandmother. Forty lashes - how can she handle that pain? You cannot justify it.”

Then referring to the religious police, Wajeha Al-Huwaider said: “This is the problem with the religious police, watching people and thinking they’re bad all the time. It has nothing to do with religion. It’s all about control. And the more you spread fear among people, the more you control them. It’s giving a bad reputation to the country.”

Meanwhile, all 3 have exhausted all avenues of appeal against that March 2009 judgment against them.  Amnesty International said: “The minister of the interior (Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz) is reported to have ordered the immediate detention and flogging of a 75-year-old woman, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, along with two Saudi Arabian men known only as Fahad and Hadyan.”  It added: “The Saudi Arabian authorities must not carry out the imminent flogging and imprisonment of an elderly woman and two younger men.”

Philip Luther, deputy director if Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program said: “It is abhorrent that an elderly woman is at risk of 40 lashes. We urge the authorities to prevent the imprisonment and flogging of Khamisa, Fahad and Hadyan.”

Think about it. Whatever happened to mercy?  Why cane a 75-year old widow?  How did the judge determine that Fahd was not breastfed by Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi and thus not a son in Islam? 

Earlier posts

Saudi Arabia – When Male Guardianship Is Abused
Saudi Arabia – New Campus Provides Freedom For Women

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