Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sri Lankan In Saudi Arabia Faces Beheading For "Casting Spell" On 13-Year-Old Shopper

In Saudi Arabia dabbling in witchcraft will get you beheaded. Trouble is, the definition of what constitutes 'witchcraft' is vague, at best.  One Saudi woman in her 60s, Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser,  was executed last December for  'witchcraft and sorcery".  There were no specific details regarding the case other than the fact that she allegedly took money ($800, so they say) from people claiming she could heal them. Did she give them herbal remedies, or just wave a magic wand or wiggle her nose and say they were cured?  And how many people actually accused her?  It only takes one person to finger an individual as a witch in Saudi Arabia and they can face execution.  That's what's happened to a poor woman after a Saudi man claimed she cast a spell on his daughter at a shopping mall.

A Sri Lankan woman could face the death penalty by beheading after she was arrested on suspicion of casting a spell on a 13-year-old girl during a family shopping trip, a police spokesman said on Wednesday. The daily Okaz reported that a Saudi man had complained his daughter had "suddenly started acting in an abnormal way, and that happened after she came close to the Sri Lankan woman" in a shopping mall in the port city of Jeddah.

"He reported her to the security forces, asking for her arrest and the specialised units dealt with the situation swiftly and succeeded in arresting her," Okaz reported.

What?  So, let me get this straight- a Sri Lankan woman is in a mall, minding her own business I assume, and this Saudi man's little girl starts acting up (as 13 year-olds are apt to do) as she walks by, and the woman could lose her head over this?

Ironically, although Saudi Arabia has no penal code (it's a monarchy, and a backwards one at that), according to Peter Luther of Amnesty International:

"The charges of 'witchcraft and sorcery' are not defined as crimes in Saudi Arabia and to use them to subject someone to the cruel and extreme penalty of execution is truly appalling."

Amnesty also states that  charges of witchcraft are often a means of  punishing people ".. after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion." And according to Human Rights Watch, it's foreigners who are usually the major targets "... because of their traditional practices or, occasionally, because Saudi men facing charges of sexual harassment by domestic workers want to discredit their accusers."

But it's all so very arbitrary, and anyone can get the short end of the stick.  A Sudanese man was also executed in 2011 for sorcery. Then there's Ali Sibat, the Lebanese fortune-telling TV personality, who almost lost his head, while on a pilgrimage to Mecca. And Mustafa Ibrahiman, an Egyptian pharmacist working in Saudi Arabia, executed in 2007  for trying "to separate a married couple, through sorcery."

God knows why anyone visits there.

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