Exclusive: Saudi Rape Victim Tells Her Story

"I spent two hours begging them to take me home. I told them that it was late and that my family would be asking about me. Then I saw a third man come into the room. There was a lot of violence. After the third man came in, a fourth came. He slapped me and tried to choke me.

"The fifth and sixth ones were the most abusive. After the seventh one, I couldn't feel my body anymore. I didn't know what to do. Then a very fat man came on top of me and I could no longer breathe.

"Then all seven came back and raped me again. Then they took me home. … When I got out of the car, I couldn't even walk. I rang the doorbell and my mother opened the door. She said you look tired.' I didn't eat for one week after that, just water. I didn't tell anyone. I went to the hospital the next day.

"The criminals started talking about it [the rape] in my neighborhood. They thought my husband would divorce me. They wanted to ruin my reputation. Slowly my husband started to know what had happened. Four months later, we started a case. My family heard about the case. My brother hit me and tried to kill me."

Lawyer Punished Too

Along with the young woman's sentence, the General Court of Qatif confiscated the license of her attorney, Abdul Rahman Al-Lahem, a lawyer known for taking on controversial cases that push back against Saudi Arabia's strictly interpreted system of sharia, or Islamic law.

"Asking me to appear in front of a disciplinary committee at the Ministry of Justice … is a punishment for taking human rights cases against some institutions," Al-Lahem told Arab News.

Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Justice said in this week's statement that Al-Lahem's "faulty behaviors … contradict the ethics of his profession and violate the provisions of practicing law and its executive code."

New York-based Human Rights Watch researcher Christoph Wilcke, who studies the Saudi legal system, said the woman would need a pardon from King Abdullah himself or from the provincial governor to be spared the lashings and jail time. The punishment will also be reviewed by the Supreme Judiciary Council, which will scrutinize the ruling, according to the Ministry of Justice.

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