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Saudis order 40 lashes for 75 year old woman for 'mingling'

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    March 9, 2009 -- Updated 1331 GMT (2131 HKT) Saudis order 40 lashes for elderly woman for mingling * Story Highlights * Saudi newspaper says religious officer
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 9, 2009
      March 9, 2009 -- Updated 1331 GMT (2131 HKT)

      Saudis order 40 lashes for elderly woman for mingling

      * Story Highlights
      * Saudi newspaper says religious officer found two men in Syrian
      woman's house
      * Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi said she breast-fed one of men when he
      was infant
      * Sawadi argues that under Islamic tradition, that makes man
      related to her
      * Men to receives lashes, too; case sparks outrage in
      conservative Saudi Arabia
      * Next Article in World ยป

      By Mohammed Jamjoom and Saad Abedine
      CNN

      (CNN) -- A Saudi Arabian court has sentenced a 75-year-old Syrian
      woman to 40 lashes, four months imprisonment and deportation from the
      kingdom for having two unrelated men in her house, according to local
      media reports.

      According to the Saudi daily newspaper Al-Watan, troubles for the
      woman, Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi, began last year when a member of the
      religious police entered her house in the city of Al-Chamli and found
      her with two unrelated men, "Fahd" and "Hadian."

      Fahd told the policeman that he had the right to be there, because
      Sawadi had breast-fed him as a baby and was therefore considered to
      be a son to her in Islam, according to Al-Watan. Fahd, 24, added that
      his friend Hadian was escorting him as he delivered bread for the
      elderly woman. The policeman then arrested both men.

      Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islam called
      Wahhabism and punishes unrelated men and women who are caught mingling.

      The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice,
      feared by many Saudis, is made up of several thousand religious
      policemen charged with duties such as enforcing dress codes, prayer
      times and segregation of the sexes. Under Saudi law, women face many
      restrictions, including a strict dress code and a ban on driving.
      Women also need to have a man's permission to travel.
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      Al Watan obtained the court's verdict and reported that it was partly
      based on the testimony of the religious police. In his ruling, the
      judge said it had been proved that Fahd is not the Sawadi's son
      through breastfeeding.

      The court also doled out punishment to the two men. Fahd was
      sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes; Hadian was
      sentenced to six months in prison and 60 lashes. In a phone call with
      Al Watan, the judge declined to comment and suggested the newspaper
      review the case with the Ministry of Justice.

      Sawadi told the newspaper that she will appeal, adding that Fahd is
      indeed her son through breastfeeding.

      The case has sparked anger in Saudi Arabia.

      "It's made everybody angry because this is like a grandmother," Saudi
      women's rights activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider told CNN. "Forty lashes --
      how can she handle that pain? You cannot justify it."

      This is not the first Saudi court case to cause controversy.

      In 2007, a 19-year-old gang-rape victim in the Saudi city of Qatif
      was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for meeting with
      an unrelated male. The seven rapists, who had abducted the woman and
      man, received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in
      prison. The case sparked international outrage and Saudi King
      Abdullah subsequently pardoned the "Qatif Girl" and the unrelated male.

      Many Saudis are hopeful that the Ministry of Justice will be
      reformed. Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz announced in February a
      major Cabinet reshuffling in which many hard-line conservatives,
      including the head of the commission, were dismissed and replaced
      with younger, more moderate members.

      The new appointments represented the largest shakeup since King
      Abdullah took power in 2005 and were welcomed in Saudi Arabia as
      progressive moves on the part of the king, whom many see as a
      reformer. Among ministers who've been replaced is the minister of
      justice.
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      The actions of the religious police have come under increased
      scrutiny in Saudi Arabia recently, as more and more Saudis urge that
      the commission's powers be limited. Last week, the religious police
      detained two male novelists for questioning after they tried to get
      the autograph of a female writer, Halima Muzfar, at a book fair in
      Riyadh, the capital of the kingdom.

      "This is the problem with the religious police," added Al-Huwaider,
      "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."
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