Saudis set to execute illiterate, beaten woman for "witchcraft"

The Saudi government is set to execute an illiterate woman for the crime of "witchcraft." She "confessed" to the crime after being beaten by the religious police and then fingerprinting a confession she could not read.
The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read.

Among her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent...

When an appeal court decided she should not be executed, the law courts imposed the death sentence again, arguing that it would be in the public interest.

Link (via Making Light)


  1. …You know, the more I hear stories like this, the more I’d love to see every one of those clerics who come up with such draconian bullshit edicts and have them simply burned at the stake.

    [shakes head in disgust]

  2. Aside from Bush/Pierce family ties, I still wonder why our war of terror does not extend to the holdings of the house of Saud.

    Can’t we at least send a delta team or fund an elite mujahadeen team to get her the hell out of there?

  3. Not one more penny, not one more moment of support. The US must withdraw all of its financial, military, and political support until the Saudis reject this nonsense.

  4. Sadly, we have “witches” and witch hunters in the developed world too. We just don’t directly use the word “witch”

    Take the case of an Oakland County, Michigan mother and father accused of abusing their autistic daughter.

    The only “evidence” holding this case together is the “testimony” of the girl made through the “facilitator”, who holds the girls hands in her own while typing on a keyboard to “answer” questions.

    Funny, when defense asked the facilitator to leave the room when asking questions, the “girl” could not answer a single question when the facilitator returned. Things like “Are you a boy or a girl?” The answers were gibberish.

    Yet the prosecutors will not drop, and this case is still ongoing, dad sits in jail, mom on a tether, and the children sit in foster care.

    “Late last year, the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office accused a West Bloomfield couple of doing something very bad to their autistic 14-year-old daughter. Today, more than two months after the girl’s father was jailed without bond, an accumulating body of evidence suggests that it is the Prosecutor’s Office that has been bad and the parents who have been the victims of a breathtakingly unprofessional witch hunt. ”

    Crying Rape Through a Ouija Board
    Detroit Free Press
    Feb 6, 2008


    – Prosecutors were caught “discussing the case” (i.e. rehearsing answers) with the girl and “facilitator” during school time.
    – Cops harassed her disabled brother, meeting with him alone
    – Mom was not allowed to attend religious services without government approval
    – Medical exam showed that girl’s hymen is intact, contradicting her “statements” of her abuse
    – Defense expert called “facilitator” methods unreliable
    – Prosecution expert called the “facilitator” methods unreliable under cross
    – Even if dad is found innocent and mom is found innocent, in Michigan, the DHS now has custody of the kids, and getting them back is an entirely different matter. Even if there is clearly no evidence of abuse, the state may keep the kids forever if it decides that such a move is in the best interests of the children.

    So while I condemn these Saudi abuses, we in the developed world also need to keep our own homes in order.

  5. This isn’t really a big surprise to me. People who want to read about how insane things are for women in the Kingdom of Saud should read Jean P. Sasson’s “Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia”. It’s rather frightening the conditions under which women live over there.

  6. @jetsetsc-

    Not if you buy your gas from Hess, or Sunoco, who do not import oil from Saudi Arabia (or most other OPEC nations).

  7. That sucks that there are still places that do crap like this. Just goes to show how far some countries have to go when it comes to basic human rights; even so called indusrial nations. Nations that aren’t part of the 3rd world.

    Having said that, I can’t pass the oppurtunity to say…

    “She turned me into a newt…”

    “I got better.”

    “Burn her!”

  8. @DougDante, that reminds me of the satanic ritual abuse/recovered memory hysteria of the 80s and 90s. Creepy and stupid, but Western civ will never be rid of these things, I fear. Homeopathy, ghost hunters, past life hypnosis, Q-ray bracelets…its all the same superstitious mumbo jumbo.

    Still, women in Europe and N.A. generally aren’t treated like property, so I don’t know if the comparison to Saudi Arabia is fair. Besides, I don’t buy the notion that we can’t complain about someone else until we’re 100% perfect, there are degrees of stupidity, something like this:

    Facilitated communication: stupid
    Killing suspected witches: freaking barbaric

  9. Sadly, it’s nothing new there.

    But, I think Aaron Sorkin said it best.

    “Outraged? I’m barely surprised. This is a country where women aren’t allowed to drive a car. They’re not allowed to be in the company of any man other than a close relative. They’re required to adhere to a dress code that would make a Maryknoll nun look like Malibu Barbie. They beheaded 121 people last year for robbery, rape, and drug trafficking. They have no free press, no elected government, no political parties. And the Royal Family allows the Religious Police to travel in groups of six carrying nightsticks and they freely and publicly beat women. But ‘Brutus is an honorable man.’ 17 schoolgirls were forced to burn alive because they weren’t wearing the proper clothing. Am I outraged? No. . . . That is Saudi Arabia, our partners in peace.”

  10. @5
    the “facilitated communication” nonsense was debunked years ago with a simple double blind test. How can this still be going on? Or is Michigan in a time warp? Or do they have other evidence they can’t admit and are using this as a back door? Or are they just incredibly stupid, immoral and lazy?

    As for the Saudis, has anyone put future relations with them to the present candidates?

  11. It is like a little microcosm of the Middle Ages here. Been here for 7 months in Saudi and find it amazing and absurd all at once.

    For those who are stupefied by this story, let me just say: First rule of KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), don’t apply logic when trying to understand things.

    There are about 100,000 news article similar to this Salem-like episode; and their are a few choice nonfiction books that escape into the Western world, depicting life within the peninsula.

  12. The KSA is culture-bound. Other than feel bad for the woman, what can you do? So many people die each day from so many things. Sure, I won’t fill my car today. That’ll show ’em! The KSA might as well be the only source of fresh water on the planet. I wonder if we would all just go and take it, if “it” was water?

  13. This story is a week old. There has been no update from HRW since February 14. Hopefully their appeal will have some impact.

  14. Rather than attempting to be selective about where you fill your tank, the solution is to use less.

    This means reorganizing your life. Live closer to where you work. Maybe even down-town. Take public transit if it’s available, and agitate for it if it isn’t. Support “congestion fees” to help shift city cores from cars to public transit. This is the 21st century: where are the monorails!?

    Like any lifestyle change, it takes time to do this, and it requires a genuine change in your personal values. But as well as making the world cleaner and yourself richer, you’ll be taking money out of the hands of medieval bastards like the House of Saud and their Wahhabist supporters, who treat women as property and kill people for disagreeing with them.

    The world will only change when you change.

  15. What? No mention of christians yet? If the ultra-conservative side of that religion had their way we’d be doing the same things here in the USA.

  16. @Ken Hansen-

    Venezuela isn’t the answer to all of our oil problems, but at least they don’t have a religious police. How many gallons of Saudi gas to I have to buy to fund one flogging? Of the $394 billion worth of arms the Us gov’t sold the between 1990-2000, how many of those guns are carried by the Mutaween?

  17. This is horrible, even her appeal’s victory didn’t help: “…when an appeal court decided she should not be executed, the law courts imposed the death sentence again, arguing that it would be in the public interest…”(bbc)
    They won’t use Western Magic-delta team there due to Saudi is Washington ally and we’ve got enough troubble in that region already, but we can use our State Department. It will take some time, so poor lady needs to make a second appeal.
    Horrific story, but we all been there just a relatively short time ago. We’ve had inquisition, KKK etc and that shameful experience should help us to fight smarter and harder.

  18. @24: From Ed Hussain’s “The Islamist” (p. 247 of 2007 Penguin paperback English edition): “In contemporary Wahhabism there are two broad factions. One is publicly supportive of the House of Saud, and will endorse any policy decision reached by the Saudi government and provide scriptural justification for it. the second believes that the House of Saud should be forcibly removed and the Wahhabi clerics should take charge. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are from the second school”

    So it depends on who you want to call the “real” Wahhabists. Of course, this being a matter of power politics and violence, there are plenty of people who dispute the use of the Wahhabi name as such, because there is nothing that people who are intent on getting their way by killing would rather see than everyone earnestly debating what arbitrary word ought to be used to describe them.

  19. Cpt. Tim: “we should be tolerant of peoples intolerance right?”

    Yes, else you become an intolerant person too.

    Bad behaviour on the part of others does not free you to behave badly.

    Fight intolerance, but make sure you are worthy of winning that fight.

  20. “Fight intolerance, but make sure you are worthy of winning that fight.”

    You can’t fight intolerance without being intolerant of intolerance. Theres a lot about religion I like (amazing) but when you start picking away the bad aspects of it, you’re going to get called out for being intolerant of someones faith.

    i mean sure if you say “people should not be able to be Muslim” thats unacceptable intolerance. Or places where they try to ban Muslim dress. Thats intolerance. Its intolerance that i’d be out there with them protesting over.

    but saying that Muslims shouldn’t be able to execute someone based on their religious beliefs, is acceptable intolerance. But when you do that.. you know.. who are you to tell them to stop fighting for their faith?

  21. @28

    We have no moral or ethical compulsion to be “tolerant” of injustice. It isn’t “intolerance” that we’re fighting, it’s superstitious oppression. Our goal shouldn’t be to make Saudis more “tolerant” it should be to sanction their government and economy until they abide by basic standards of civil liberties and human rights.

    There’s no need for “tolerance” or “understanding” here. We should take direct, decisive, and bloodless action against any regime that perpetuates this sort of horror.

    The fact that our government continues to do business with these zealots is absurd, because their law stands in direct opposition to everything that America has spent the last 400 years building. Every dollar we put into the hands of House of Saud finances more religious brutality, and we continue to sell them weapons to defend and expand their dominion.

  22. Our goal shouldn’t be to make Saudis more “tolerant” it should be to sanction their government and economy until they abide by basic standards of civil liberties and human rights.

    Good luck with that. First off, the Bush family and the Royal Saudis are deeply connected. The whole point of the last 8 years of the GOP revolution has been to bring to the US an aristocratic class. The Bush’s want to have over here what the Saudis have.

    Second, I hear they have this… stuff, without which our entire civilization would collapse like a house of cards. The Saud’s have also made threats that any attempts towards energy independence would be punished.

    You would think then that switching to an energy source that didn’t chain us to a corrupt feudal empire would be a priority. Nope, again it won’t happen (see: electric car) because it is in the economic interest of oil giants to keep us dependent on oil.

  23. @Noen – Well, the House of Bush only has 11 months left, so we won’t have that connection for much longer.

    Secondly, we can do without the Saudi’s oil. In 2007, Saudi oil accounted for only 16% of our total crude imports. Not exactly a “house of cards” scenario to cut them off. And I’d rather have them make idle threats about energy independence than torture and murder more people for the audacity of pretending its 2008.

    Pessimism isn’t going to work here. There were plenty of defeatist “it’s never going to work because…” arguments during the US Abolition movement, but the absolute need to move forward overruled them.

  24. #2 posted by nikos:

    You’re joking, right? Does this lady have a few massive oil fields to feed our military-industrial machine for a few more years? Cause the only way the deltas are going in is if she’s got a few billion barrels of sweet black shiny sand juice.

  25. Christianity only moderated in response to the challenge of freethinking secularists who drew upon the Graeco-Roman roots of European culture. Not from any internal impulse to evolve. I think that more than the effect the freedom from fossil fuels would have on the environment etc. the greater benefit to the world would be breaking the hold this part of the world has on the rest. As the downside of mediaevalism became apparent to them after the scientific and industrial revolutions in the west most of the Islamic world was becoming more open to democracy and reason over religion and tradition. When oil was found that whole process was really derailed. On the one hand they became prosperous but on the other that prosperity rested on the engineering and technology of the west. For a society whose overriding concern is pride and saving face that must have really galled them. The only thing they could do to shore up their sense of self-worth was to hark back to the days when Islamic culture was at it’s height. It’s no wonder they started to regress.
    For as long as America and the rest of the world want their oil we will turn a blind eye to the horrors going on there. Any attempts at rectifying the situation through invasion will always fuel their anger, resentment and inferiority complex. The only way out I can see is through economic independence from them and refusal to engage with them till they once again start to change from within.
    We can all rail on about their brutality and superstition but as long as we continue to enjoy the benefits of an economy based on oil we will tolerate and be complicit in that brutality.

  26. #36 g.park

    Oh I sure hope you are right. I’m just not feeling all that optimistic right now. Also, in or out of office the whole point of Cheney’s “Unitary Executive” construct is to make it so compelling that succeeding administrations, even Dem ones, will continue to use it.

  27. We should all know by now that there are TWO different Saudi worlds. The government, which is pro-US and mostly normal and the crazy Wahhabis, which are like right wing Christians, only even more insane, if you can believe it.

    So this would kind of like saying, “We need to destroy the USA because Pat Robertson is an idiot”

  28. the Saudi royal family is pro-royal family. They will kill any Saudis opposed to them, help Al Quaeda kill Americans if that takes the heat off them at home (and they also like killing Americans themselves), will kill any Al Quaeda working to depose them and will kill each other over family power politics.

    The life of some illiterate peasant woman is utterly beneath the life of the least dog in the royal kennels.

  29. @Moon-

    If Pat Robertson was in charge of the FBI, and used it to torture and kill homosexuals and atheists, then your analogy would be accurate.

  30. Is Michigan in a time warp? We’re in somekind of warp. Detroit is it’s own crazy world sometimes. What a nut house.

  31. The US must withdraw all of its financial, military, and political support until the Saudis reject this nonsense.

    I think that, at this point, they’re supporting us, not the other way around.

  32. Your President sells the saudi royal family f-15s, then arranges for the murder of hundreds of thousands of iraqi and afghani civilians.

    what is the US interest in the middle east?

    OIL = WAR.

    if all passenger vehicles in the US got just 25 mpg, we would need to import zero barrels of middle eastern oil.

    VOTE and conserve energy.

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