Qatif girl rape case

Qatif girl rape case

The "Qatif Girl" Rape Case (Arabic: قضية اغتصاب فتاة القطيف ) is a much-publicized gang-rape case in which many facts have been covered where the victim was sentenced to lashes for being in a parked car with a man she was having an illicit affair with, but after international protests pardoned.

The rape victim was an 18 year old girl who was, along with another man, gang-raped by seven Saudi men in Awamia west of Qatif, (Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia) in 2006. The local court sentenced the perpetrators to varying sentences involving 80 to 1,000 lashes and imprisonment up to ten years for four of them. The court also sentenced the two victims to six months in prison and 90 lashes each for the separate crime of conducting an extramarital affair. On appeal, the appeals court doubled the victims' sentences in late 2007 because the victim attempted to use the media to manipulate the Saudi Justice System, causing an international media storm about Saudi judicial practices. On Monday 17 December 2007, the Saudi King Abdullah issued an official pardon for the two victims, citing his ultimate authority to revise "discretionary" punishments in accordance with the public good.

The Incident's Circumstances

In an ABC news interview, the girl said "I [was] 19 years old. I had a relationship with someone on the phone. We were both 16. I had never seen him before. I just knew his voice. He started to threaten me, and I got afraid. He threatened to tell my family about the relationship. Because of the threats and fear, I agreed to give him a photo of myself," she recounted.

"A few months [later] , I asked him for the photo back but he refused. I had gotten married to another man. He said, 'I'll give you the photo on the condition that you come out with me in my car.' I told him we could meet at a souk [market] near my neighborhood city plaza in Qatif.

"He started to drive me home. We were 15 minutes from my house. I told him that I was afraid and that he should speed up. We were about to turn the corner to my house when they [another car] stopped right in front of our car. Two people got out of their car and stood on either side of our car. The man on my side had a knife. They tried to open our door. I told the individual with me not to open the door, but he did. He let them come in. I screamed.

"One of the men brought a knife to my throat. They told me not to speak. They pushed us to the back of the car and started driving. We drove a lot, but I didn't see anything since my head was forced down." [ [ ABC News: Exclusive: Saudi Rape Victim Tells Her Story ] ]

The teen victim provided more details in interviews published in Arabic with the Human Rights Watch and An Associated Press reporter, Farida Deif, who met her in a face-to-face interview. The interviews were then published in the Arabic Saiydati magazine and MSNBC: [ [ MSNBC website] ] :: "I knew him when I was ten, but I only knew him through telephone conversations, his voice was all I knew about him. He then threatened to tell my family about it if I didn’t give him a picture of myself. Months later I asked him to give it back since I got engaged to be married, so we agreed to meet near the City Plaza mall located fifteen minutes away from my house. When we were heading back, a car stopped right in front of his and two men carrying knives came out. I told him not to unlock the doors but he did, and I started screaming. They drove for a long time while we were forced to keep our heads down. When we arrived I noticed a lot of palm trees. They took me out to a dark area and forced me to take off my clothes. The first man with the knife raped me. He destroyed me. I thought about running away but where could I go to looking like this? Another man came in and did the same. I was about to faint. For more than two hours I asked them to leave me alone, I begged them. The third man was violent and the fourth almost strangled me. The fifth and sixth were even more brutal. When the seventh man finished I couldn't feel myself anymore. He was so fat I couldn't breath. Then they all did it again. When they dropped me home I couldn't walk, my mom opened the door and said I looked sick. I couldn't tell anyone and for a whole week I couldn't eat, but later I went to the hospital." [ Al-Arabiya News Channel] ]

In other interviews, more of the victims' relatives spoke up about how the assailants used pictures they took of them during the rape and they taunted her about the phone numbers they got from her cell phone and threatened her and her family. Part of interviews were published in Saiydati magazine.

The Court's Findings and Verdicts

First verdict

Four months after the assault, the victim and her husband along with their lawyer decided to bring the case to court. A trial was set in October 2006 and she was sentenced to 90 lashes for "being alone with a man who is not a relative" which is considered an offense in the strict Wahhabi jurisprudence. It is widely condemned that Saudi law literally depends on Sharia laws since judges' interpretations of it are not based on any written legal code. Each judge interprets it in his own way. [ [ Saudi Rape Case Spurs Calls for Reform] In NYtimes.]


After the appeal, the Supreme Judicial Council granted a retrial. The second court rulings made the headlines in Saudi Arabia and around the world, although it occurred during a time of important local and regional events. The foreign delegates attending the historical Third OPEC summit in Riyadh have found a topic of interest that wasn’t quite listed on the summit's program, while news about the Lebanese presidential elections and Iranian President Ahmadinejad came in second as a priority for the media. [] Ironically, the much controversial ruling against the female victim came out very near to the day the world celebrated the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. On November 13 2007, the Qatif Court sentenced the female rape victim to six months in jail and 200 lashes. the Saudi Justice Ministry itself, officially stated that the woman's sentence was increased to 200 lashes and six months in jail because she apparently admitted to having an extramarital affair with the man with whom she was when the rape occurred. Adultery is a crime in Saudi Arabia, so for committing adultery, and for lying to the police about the circumstances of the rape, her sentence was increased. - "The Saudi justice minister expressed his regret about the media reports over the role of the woman in this case which put out false information and wrongly defend her." []

The sentences of the seven men found guilty of abducting and repeatedly raping the young woman and her male companion were also increased to between two and nine years each. [ [ ArabNews article] ] The assailants' penalty was not any less surprising than the victim's, for in Saudi Arabia, the penalty of death is expected for convicted rapists. The Ministry of Justice stated that this never happened due to "lack of witnesses" and the "absence of confessions".

Removing the victim’s lawyer

Among other sources of news, The Guardian reported on November 17 2007 that::: "the victim's Lawyer Al-Lahem's critics have called him an infidel and "lawyer of homosexuals". In the past he has been jailed and banned from traveling abroad." [ [,,2212583,00.html Guardian article] ]
Abdulrahman al-Lahem, a well known human rights activist who had represented his clients in many controversial and sensitive trails in the past, [ Washington Post] ] was accused by the judges of being ‘disruptive to the court’, ‘disrespectful', and ‘showing ignorance of the court procedures’ and so got his license suspended.

He will appear before a disciplinary committee at the Ministry of Justice on December 5, charged with criticizing the judiciary and publicly campaigning in the media."

Media Attention

In a special report, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation channel has covered the case in a widely anticipated show by many Saudi audiences. [ [ العربية نت - زوج "فتاة القطيف" يبرئها على الهواء من الخيانة و"تلويث فراشه" ] ] The show aired a live debate between the victim's Lawyer Mr. Abdul-Rahman Al-Lahem and a Ministry of Justice consultant and former judge Abdul-Mohsen Al-Obaikan. [ [ Washington Post] ] The victim’s husband had also participated via phone. The husband defended his wife in a very surprising showing of open-mindedness of a man in this part of the world where rape victims and their families are almost always silent. He explained "I'm not lacking in manhood or an Arab man's honor for defending a so-called 'cheating wife'", then added "I feel that in this catastrophe she exercised bad judgment by meeting this man, but how can you or anyone say she committed adultery?" asking Al-Obaikan. [,,-7120112,00.html Guardian] ] In other interviews he showed further support of his wife and said that 'she shocked him when she insisted on pursuing justice although she is facing a harsh penalty'. He also expressed his worries over her deteriorating physical and mental health.

Royal Pardon

On December 17 2007, Saudi newspapers reported that the Saudi king, Abdullah had issued a "pardon" for the girl, citing his ultimate authority as monarch to overrule "discretionary" punishments (meaning punishments that are not expressly prescribed by Islamic legal canon) in accordance with the public good. ["Al Jazirah NewsPaper", Monday 17/12/2007, Issue 12863 [] ]

Public Response

* Human Rights Watch- Human Rights Watch called on Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz to immediately void the verdict and drop all charges against the rape victim and to order the court to end its harassment of her lawyer. [ [ Human Rights News] ]

* Sen. Hillary Clinton- "The latest example is the punishment of 200 lashes that a Saudi Arabian court has given to a victim - the victim - of a gang rape. This is an outrage." Clinton said in a statement. [,21985,22799105-5012748,00.html Hillary Clinton condemns Saudi gang rape lashes sentence | Herald Sun ] ]

* Sen. Barack Obama- "That the victim was sentenced at all is unjust, but that the court doubled the sentence because of efforts to call attention to the ruling is beyond unjust, I strongly urge the Department of State to condemn this ruling." Obama wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. []

* Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal- During The Annapolis Peace Summit, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal expressed his opinion to reporters that he hopes the sentence would be revised, adding that "the ruling was used to vilify his government even though it was not responsible because courts are independent". [ [ - Saudi FM hopes rape ruling will be revised ] ] "and the disturbing thing is that such usage of individual acts are meant to insult the Saudi people and the Saudi government." [ [ Saudi Press Agency] ]

* The Saudi Ministry of Justice's official statement- In an unprecedented step and a rather historic reaction from a governmental body in Saudi Arabia, the Ministry of Justice has issued a statement on the 24th of November 2007 through the official Saudi Press Agency "welcoming objective criticism that benefits the general good, away from emotional responses." [ [ Saudi Press Agency Statement prt.1] ] [ [ Saudi Press Agency Statement prt.2] ] [ [ Saudi Press Agency Statement prt.3] ] [ [ Saudi Press Agency Statement prt.4] ]

* Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel al-Jubeir- In a statement that was sent to CNN, Mr. Al-Jubeir stated that "justice will prevail." [ [ CNN Arabic news] ]

* The U.S. State Department- "The State Department voiced "astonishment" at the sentence, but stopped short of calling for it to be changed".


External links

* [ The Hidden Truth about the Qatif Rape Case: Response to 'Rape Victim Gets Lashes']
* ar icon
* ar icon
* [ Everywoman - Rape in Saudi Arabia - 23 Nov 07 - Part 1]

A Response in Defense of the Saudi Judges

* [ Saudi: Why we punished rape victim] . In CNN November 20, 2007
* [ An Islamic Defense of the Saudi Ruling]
* [ The Qatif Woman's case and the Saudi Judgment]
* [ Explanatory Statement by the Ministry of Justice about Qatif Girl] 21/11/2007


* Faraz Omar: [ The Qatif Woman’s case and the Saudi Judgment] In iNarrators 26 November 2007
* [ Saudi FM Faults Rape Ruling] . In IslamOnline Nov. 27, 2007

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