International Solidarity Network
Subject: Imprisonment and Whipping of 75 year-old Woman
April 20, 2009
The Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) international solidarity network is deeply concerned by the conviction of Mrs. Khamisa Sawadi for ‘illegal mingling’, and her sentencing to forty lashes and four months in prison. The verdict raises questions not just related to the safety and security of Mrs. Sawadi, but also the broader situation of human/women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
On March 3, 2009 Mrs. Sawadi, a 75 year old woman living in Hail, northern Saudi Arabia, was accused, and found guilty, of mingling with two young men to whom she was not immediately related. In April 2008 Sawadi met the two 24-year-old men after she asked them to bring her five loaves of bread. Since her husband’s death and the marriage of her two daughters, who subsequently relocated to Riyadh, Sawadi had commonly asked her friends and neighbours for help. The two men, Al-Anzi, Sawadi’s late husband’s nephew, and bin Zein, al-Anzi’s business partner, were also arrested by religious police and found guilty and sentenced to prison terms and lashes.
The court based its decision on ‘citizen information’ and testimony from al-Anzi’s father, who accused Sawadi of corruption. Furthermore, the verdict cited the fact that Sawadi is not a Saudi national – although she was married to a Saudi man – and that she was without a husband as evidence of her guilt. Following the implementation of her sentence, Sawadi will face deportation.
As Saudi Arabia has committed itself to upholding human rights, evidenced by its candidacy to the Human Rights Council 2006, ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 2000, and claims to be dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights, we ask that the Saudi authority fulfil its obligation and correct this breach of international law. In its own letter to the UN Secretary General in 2006 Saudi Arabia claimed to have “a confirmed commitment with the defence, protection and promotion of human rights. This commitment has been manifested in its performance as a member of the Commission on Human Rights. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia pursues the policy of active cooperation with international organizations in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Even under the strict Sharia laws of Saudi Arabia, Khamisa did not commit any violation. A woman who has passed menopause is exempt from mingling and veiling restrictions by the words of Quran as a woman of ‘qawa’id’.
We demand that Saudi Arabia demonstrate its commitment to human rights and release Khamisa Sawadi, Fahd al-Anzi, and Hadiyan bin Zein and revoke the order of deportation.
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
International Coordination Office