Not in Saudi Arabia. The prosecution and the judge presiding over the case ignored the footage. Four of the rapists were sentenced to one to five years in prison, along with up to 1,000 lashes—not for rape, but for kidnapping. The rape charges, the court claimed, could not be proved.
And the woman who was raped? She was sentenced to 90 lashes. Her crime: riding in a car with another man not her husband. The woman was, naturally enough, incensed. She protested. “At the first session, [the judges] said to me, ‘what kind of relationship did you have with this individual? Why did you leave the house? Do you know these men?’ They asked me to describe the situation. They used to yell at me,” she told Human Rights Watch. “They were insulting. The judge refused to allow my husband in the room with me. One judge told me I was a liar because I didn’t remember the dates well. They kept saying, ‘Why did you leave the house? Why didn’t you tell your husband [where you were going]?’”
And for that, the court doubled her lash sentence, to 200, and added six months in prison for good measure. The court also suspended her lawyer’s license to practice law. The reason: “Judges of the Qatif General Court,” the Times reported, “have accused him of trying to tarnish the court’s image by talking to the media.” Lashes, the Times notes, “are meted out in increments because offenders could not survive hundreds of lashes at once. The administrator of the punishment is supposed to hold a Koran under his arm so he cannot swing the whip too fiercely; lashes are not supposed to leave permanent scars. The sentence is frequently delivered in public, often at the entrance to a jail.”
Not that those qualifiers diminish the brutality of the practice, or its misogyny, or the court’s sadism. But that’s Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, where it wouldn’t even be accurate to compare the law to something Medieval—unless the comparison was with Christian Medieval law. In Medieval Islam, none of this would have been tolerated, and even less so in the Prophet Muhammad’s time. Muhammad would have regarded as barbaric and unacceptable such treatment of women, who were, in his eyes, on equal footing with men in all matters moral, social or commercial. (On Tuesday, the Saudi Justice Ministry, bowing to the embarrassment of international outrage, agreed to “review the case.”)
But Saudi Arabia is far from the only outpost of Byzantine barbarism when it comes to reviling women, punishing the innocent, and excusing rapists.
Hop over to allegedly modern and snazzy Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, that rich city state doing so much to attract investors, tourists, foreign laborers and celebrities to bask in its immense riches and supposedly western-friendly environs. Alexandre Robert, 15 years old, was enjoying himself there last summer when, taking a ride with a friend, he found himself surrounded by three adult Arab men, Emiratis, who proceeded to kidnap him, strip him, rape him, then dump him off with a threat that they’d kill his parents if he talked.
Robert talked anyway, and the men were apprehended. But the Egyptian doctor who examined Robert (and found the men’s semen inside him) dismissed Robert’s claim that he was raped and accused him of being a homosexual. The authorities lied to Robert’s family, saying at first that the two assailants were medically clean, when, in fact, one of them had tested positive for HIV when imprisoned on a prior offense. And for good measure, Robert was threatened with prosecution and prison—for engaging in homosexual acts.
Places like Dubai pretend that homosexuality doesn’t exist by banning it, then re-branding it an aberrance and casting it off, literally, when it happens to appear: foreigners, who make up three-quarters of the population of the Emirates, are deported when outed, although Emirati homosexuals are generally treated gingerly.
Where does that leave Robert? In the safety of Switzerland, for fear that, had he stayed in the Emirates, he might have ended up in prison. But his case carries on. He returned to Dubai in early November just to testify in the case. His mother has started a web site, boycottdubai.com, dedicated “to all the children of the world whose wounds were never recognized, their words never heard and their suffering never known,” and dedicated “to all the mothers of the world even the ones of my son’s aggressors.”
The Arab Peninsula is awash in a certain kind of riches. Justice is not among those.