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15 Nov, Thursday
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The Qatif Girl Case

I WROTE about the Qatif girl rape in the New York Times last Friday, and was quoted in The Guardian on Saturday saying that I thought at least some conservative Saudis would agree with the lashing sentence that she got for being alone with an unrelated man. But I also added, that I thought many more Saudis would probably agree that further punishing a woman who had already been raped multiple times was excessive and cruel.

Here is the beginning of my NYT story:

Ruling Jolts Even Saudis: 200 Lashes for Rape Victim

By RASHEED ABOU-ALSAMH

JIDDA, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 15 — A Saudi court on Tuesday more than doubled the number of lashes that a female rape victim was sentenced to last year after her lawyer appealed the original sentence. The decision, which many lawyers found shocking even by Saudi standards of justice, has provoked a rare public debate about the treatment of women here.

The victim’s lawyer, Abdulrahman al-Lahem, a well-known human rights activist, drew the court’s ire because of his strong public criticism of the handling of the case. He has called his client’s conviction unjust and said the sentences of the seven men who raped her were too lenient.

He is also known for his past defense of critics of the monarchy.

The victim’s name has not been released. She was raped about 18 months ago in Qatif, a city in the Eastern Province, and has become known in the Saudi media as “the Qatif girl.” She was 19 years old at the time of the assault.

Her case has been widely debated since the court sentenced her to 90 lashes a year ago for being in the same car as an unrelated man, even after it ruled that she had subsequently been raped. For a woman to be in seclusion with a man who is not her husband or a relative is a crime in Saudi Arabia, whose legal code is based on a strict Wahhabi interpretation of Islamic law.

Adding to the charged political nature of the case, the victim is a member of the kingdom’s Shiite Muslim minority.

Mr. Lahem’s license to practice law has been suspended and he is facing a hearing before a Ministry of Justice disciplinary committee on Dec. 5 in Riyadh for appearing regularly on television and talking about the case.

Judges of the Qatif General Court have accused him of trying to tarnish the court’s image by talking to the media.

The young woman’s offense was in meeting a former boyfriend, whom she had asked to return pictures he had of her because she was about to marry another man. The couple was sitting in a car when a group of seven men kidnapped them and raped them both, lawyers in the case told Arab News, a Saudi newspaper.