Editor’s warning: this story is extremely distressing. We thought very carefully about publishing it but decided it needed to be told if women and girls in Saudi Arabia are ever going to be helped.
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The Saudi Islamic preacher Fayan al-Ghamdi, who was accused of torturing his five-year-old daughter Lama to death, has been sentenced to eight years in jail and 600 lashes.
Lama al-Ghamdi died in October last year, after having suffered from multiple and horrific injuries. Her skull had been crushed, and she had extensive burns and bruising on her body.
Previously, Mamamia reported:
In another world, in another country, this cute little girl would have been in her first year of school, learning to read and write and shyly making new friends in the playground.
But at five-years-old, Lama al-Ghamdi was admitted to a Saudi hospital suffering from numerous injuries, including broken ribs, a broken arm, a crushed skull and bruising after being brutally tortured by her father.
She had also been repeatedly raped and burned “everywhere”, according to the hospital staff.
Because – and this is almost incomprehensible – Lama’s father was concerned about her virginity.
His daughter was five years old.
A few days ago, we ran this brief news item on Mamamia that shocked us to the core:
There are reports out of the Saudi Arabian city of Riyadah today that a 5-year-old girl has been beaten to death by her father, a prominent Muslim cleric. Apparently the cleric, Fayan al-Ghamdi killed his daughter because he questioned her virginity. Unbelievably he has managed to pay around $50,000 in blood money in order to escape a jail term of any significance.
So we endevoured to find out more about the tragic case and we learned about little Lama and her astonishing fate.
Since that day, more horrific details have been revealed. Lama’s death has been brought to the attention of the media thanks to her mother, Syeda Mohammed Al.
“My dear child is dead, and all I want now is justice so I can close my eyes and know she didn’t die in vain,” Syeda Mohammed Al, who is now divorced from Lama’s father, told CNN.
The cleric, Fayan al-Ghamdi, is a religious personality who appears frequently on television in Saudi Arabia. He admitted to using a cane and cable to inflict the injuries on his daughter – and has been in prison for 8 months and the case was still under review.
According to the victim’s mother, hospital staff told her that her “child’s rectum had been torn open and the abuser had attempted to burn it closed.”
The activists said that the judge had ruled the prosecution could only seek “blood money (compensation for the next of kin under Islamic law) and the time the defendant had served in prison since Lama’s death suffices as punishment.
It’s been reported that the cleric paid $50,000 in “blood money” to his ex wife but she has since denied that was true. The mother is bringing her own case against Fayan al-Ghamdi – who is now re married with two more children. ‘The state needs to even consider taking his two children from him and his wife away because I fear for their lives,’ she said.
‘Women to Drive’, a group originally founded by three Saudi activists to promote the women’s right to drive in the country, have become involved – and are speaking to media outlets to highlight the injustice committed against Lama.
This disturbing story is followed by another troubling development. A Saudi cleric has courted international controversy by declaring that baby girls should wear the burka.
Sheikh Abdullah Daoud said on television that newborn girls should have their faces veiled to ward off sexual attacks.
His comments, which have recently emerged online, have led to Saudi commentators arguing that the cleric should be publicly condemned. Sheikh Mohammed al-Jzlana has spoken out against the cleric, saying that he has made the faith look bad.
He [Sheikh Mohammed al-Jzlana] urged people to ignore unofficial religious edicts, which he said were administered under special regulations set by Saudi authorities, which also appoints those entitled to issue them.
The former judge said covering baby girls with burkas was ‘an injustice’ to children.
These recent news stories highlight the very real need for better protection of women and children in Saudi Arabia.
Manal al-Sharif, who is among those who started the Women to Drive campaign, launched a social media campaign on Twitter using the hashtag ‘Ana Lama’ to draw attention to these – and similar – atrocities.
Women to Drive said on their Facebook page that discontent is growing among members of the public about the way violence against women continues to be overlooked by authorities.
Change is a long way off – but the people are beginning to fight for it.
Do you think more members of the global community are becoming concerned by violence against women?