Sunday, September 24, 2006

Saudi life laid bare

An article in Arab News sheds a harsh light, unintentionally I suspect, on the plight of women in Saudi Arabia. The article details the nightmare of a woman and her daughters at the hands of a sexually abusive husband.

The indifference of the authorities, the threats of institutionalization and their financial difficulties after the sexual predator is finally jailed makes for an appalling story.

A few excerpts:
In a society which refused to believe such abhorrent crimes occur and with a system that is ill equipped to assist the victims or handle their cases, people are left to suffer alone in silence. The girl’s mother married the man when she was 14 and he was much older. “I noticed his strange behavior and unnatural requests early in our marriage but I was young and ignorant and afraid to disobey or talk to anyone.”

[ ... ]

All the time, whenever she told her family what she saw and suspected, they would either refuse to believe her or pray God to cure her — she is epileptic. “They always said I was crazy and didn’t know what I was talking about.”

The daughter, now 22, remembers incidents of sexual harassment when she was eight. “He told me these things were normal between a father and daughter and he bought me candy and gifts afterward. When I was young, I believed him but it didn’t feel right to me.”

At 13, his sexual harassment ["harassment"?? --ed. ] of her — the touching, the exposing — turned into sexual assault. “I began asking my friends and teachers indirectly as if talking about another girl. They told me that the girl I was talking about must be promiscuous or exaggerating. I then realized that what my father did to me was not normal.”

[ ... ]

Meanwhile, the mother sought her family’s help but to no avail. She is one of ten siblings in a poor family in Makkah. Her father did not want her back as a divorcee with children. None of her brothers or sisters wanted to help her or even listen to her. She broke down and sobbed, “They just wanted to leave us in our misery. My father threatened to kill me if I even thought of leaving home."

[ ... ]

The girl’s mother says in desperation, “What if they release him from jail for whatever reason or sentence him to only a few years? What if he is pardoned in the group of prisoners usually pardoned in Ramadan? He will take my children and send me to a mental hospital.”
Read it all.

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