Saudi newspapers reported Monday that King Abdullah had pardoned a gang-rape victim after an internal and international outcry over her sentence—six months in prison and 200 lashes for being alone with a man not related to her. The husband of the woman—known as the girl from Qatif—said she was relieved, but human rights groups said the case was still a disgrace. “What we need is not pardons,” said human rights activist Fawzeyah al-Oyouni. “What we need is justice.” (The Washington Post, free registration)
What the commentators said
King Abdullah may have thought the pardon would quiet the anger at the “fundamentalist-Islamic Saudi justice system,” said Patrick J. Lyons in The New York Times’ The Lede blog, but the news “seems to be renewing the criticism and calls for reform.” The king, after all, said the court was not wrong to punish the 19-year-old girl for the crime that provoked the attack—sitting alone in a car with a man to whom she wasn’t related.
Don’t be too quick to dismiss the importance of this victory, said Saudi blogger Ahmed Al-Omran on his site, Saudi Jeans. The king stepped in before all appeals were exhausted, so this sends a message. But “what’s important is that justice and common sense have prevailed in the end.”
“And now?” said Anne Applebaum in The Washington Post (free registration). “In Saudi Arabia women still can't vote, can't drive, can't leave the house without a male relative.” What will it take for the world to launch a campaign to change that?