Thursday, January 28, 2010

90 lashes to that 13-year-old girl?

The "other" story about that...

What to believe? The first report or the new report? Did someone, here, in the Sandbox, decide that a more gentle and "user-friendly" spin had to be put on the story so that the punishment didn't sound as barbaric as it is? Maybe. We will never know.

Yesterday's Saudi Gazette offered a new "Dramatic episode of Saudi student's lashing." A version which, by the way, is quite different from that which was reported I blogged on last week.

Sabria S. Jawhar, who I thought was going to be a breath of fresh air* and who I sometimes agree with, does her best to set us straight.

Turns out, according to Ms. Jawhar, that the 13-year-old is really 20. Hmm. A seven year difference there. Because, lashing an adolescent instead of a grown woman just seems so - so - something. Oh! Barbaric. And turns out that the girl/woman assaulted the principal, allegedly by breaking a water glass over her head. We all knew such a punishment wouldn't be meted out to a young girl just for taking her phone to school or for "hitting" the principal headmistress. At least we've been set straight on that.

The school where the incident took place is "a public school" which has a "program for young women to obtain a high school diploma." Maybe it is for women who were but mere little girls that got pulled out of school early on to get married. Don't know. Either way, Ms. Jawhar says that the original report "wasn't true." What a surprise. The facts, as they were then known, were all wrong. Kind of sort of. Either way, Sabria would like to "turn this student over my knee and give her a good spanking for acting like the misbehaving toddler she is." Little late for that now, as the woman [who is unnamed] is now 20! Perhaps if that would have happened when she was a young child... [Not that I advocate spanking. I didn't spank my son. I probably should have. Hindsight. It is a wonderful thing.]

Sabria goes on to say, "This student understood the rules... She deserves to be punished, but the reactions are way over the top." I dunno. 90 lashes for breaking a glass over someone else's head? Seems to me like others have done worse and been punished less. No matter. The point Sabria wants to make with her column has more to do with Saudi women in general and not just the one woman at issue. "...the young woman's temper tantrum [toddlers throw temper tantrums, not adults!] and the authorities' overreaction point to larger issues of Saudi society's treatment of adult women, Saudi media's haphazard and lazy reporting [how do your colleagues feel about being called haphazard and lazy, I wonder?], the sense of entitlement among some [some! emphasis, mine] Saudi families and lack of parental control." Have to agree that not all 20-year-old students are perfect models of behavior, but how many assault authoritative figures at their schools by breaking a glass over their head? So, as "ridiculous" as it may seem "that Saudi women are treated like little children" there are obviously reasons why such rules and regulations regarding phones and dress-codes were necessary to begin with.

Phones are banned at all girls' schools [boys, too? probably not - this is, after all, a very male-dominated society where boys can do virtually no wrong]. Would it be a stretch to think that phones prohibited at girls' schools because the privilege was abused? I don't think so. So, the school makes a rule that "[a]ll women, including parents and guests, are not permitted to have mobile phones on school grounds." Rules are rules. Ms. Jawhar misses the point about this. She says, "It's fine to ban mobile phones use by students, but it's simply an abuse of power when applied to anyone else. If my mother came to my high school campus with a mobile in her purse, it's nobody's business but her own. [If your mother did that, and left it in her purse, I'd be willing to be no one would care.] And if she sat in the administration building's lobby and chatted on the phone with my sister, then it's her business. Just who has the right to stop her?" The school does, if those are the rules. Entitlement? Much? If the rules say no mobile phones on school property then it means no mobile phones on the property. Are you trying to say that whatever your mother had to say in her "chat" with your sister couldn't wait? A "chat" is not an emergency. That "chat" can wait until your mother has left the school grounds, can't it?

Ms. Jawhar gives us some insight on Saudi girls' schools which "can be unreasonably strict... Most schools have strict dress codes that require heavy dark colored clothing without adornment that is impractical for hot weather [oh my - I've been saying all along that the blag bag I am forced to wear when I leave our compound is impractical for hot weather and a myriad of other reasons]. I remember in my days at school that girls were required to wear black shoes and white socks. Makeup and perfumes were banned. There were no mirrors in the restrooms [was there any toilet paper?] and compacts from girls purses were often seized by school authorities." Surely there were / are reasons for the rules. I'd be willing to guess that as with any school that requires uniforms the envelope was pushed and pushed and pushed. "While proper decorum in an acedemic enviornment is conducive to good learning, there's a fine line between oppression and discipline." So, oppression is okay, then? Must be. "Perhaps if Saudi institutions like this school... stopped treating women as kids they will stop acting like kids." And, we go back to rules are rules. Good for thee but not for me, mentality. Oh, and isn't learning how to follow the rules a sign of maturity?

Forget about the rules at the girls' schools. Let's slam the Saudi media who, "in their own inept way, helped bring international condemnation from human rights groups in Saudi Arabia." Ms. Jawhar says, "The Arabic-language press not only got the woman's age wrong but also muddled the facts over whether the lashing sentence was for having a mobile phone on campus or for assaulting the headmistress. Amnesty International made matters worse by announcing the girl was 13-years-old." Right. Ms. Jawhar and I will have to agree to disagree on part of that. I think I was pretty clear in my earlier post that the lashings were meted out for something far more serious than a girl just having a mobile phone. How did I reach that conclusion? From the original media report. And as far as having Amnesty International making matters worse, I'd say that I think Saudi Arabia does a fine job all on its own in bringing to the world's attention just how incredulously it punishes women. I mean, after all, where else in the world is a rape victim punished? Not including other third world countries...

In the article is a paragraph or two about "sloppy reporting" and "blame." The school gets the "lion's share." Then about how "lack of transparency usually leads to erroneous reporting." Can't argue with that fact. Newspapers in the United States have seen their circulation decline drastically over the past few years for that very reason. Ms. Jawhar says, "The international community will only remember that a young girl was flogged for bringing a mobile phone to school. Nobody cares that it was an adult who attacked another woman with a deadly weapon." Not true. The international community will only remember that in Saudi Arabia girls are flogged. Doesn't matter if it was for bringing a mobile phone to school or for being the victim of a rape!

Then, this: "Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of this incident is that the attack appears to not have occurred in the heat of the moment... After the headmistress confiscated the phone, the student went home and returned to school with her mother. It was during the meeting between the three women that [the] young woman picked up a drinking glass and struck the headmistress with it." There have been countless reports of young boys getting bad marks and going home from school only to return later with their father's who proceed to beat the crap out of the teacher that gave the bad grade. I haven't seen Ms. Jawhar report on any of those incidents. You see, it is not the student's fault for not studying or doing homework. It is always the teacher's fault for giving a bad grade. Muddled reporting? No. Muddled mindset.

"No doubt the mother was shocked at her daughter's behavior, but one has to wonder when the daughter learned that violence solves such small problems..." Oh, my. If that doesn't open up a can of worms! I'm not even going to go there, but one has to wonder where it is that so many men learn that it is okay to strap on boom-boom vests or don boom-boom panties in an effort to eliminate people who don't subscribe to the same belief system as they do...

Ms. Jawhar thinks that the "student possesses an undeserved sense of entitlement that the rules don't apply to her..." Isn't this part of the upbringing? The same sense of entitlement that makes it okay for people to cut in front of you in a queue at the grocery store? Yeah. I think it is.

But to blame the headmistress?!! You've got to be kidding. "The headmistress... could have stopped this runaway locomotive of a public relations disaster. She could have nipped the controversy in the bud by forgiving the student to spare her the lashing. But the headmmistress had her own temper tantrum by refusing to take the high road..." Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. Personal responsibility? There isn't any.

*Not so much as it turns out. Sometimes, though, I think she is restrained, perhaps more out of necessity than not. Just my opinion.

1 comment:

  1. I am wondering when the "mental illness" card will be played. Because surely no one who thinks rationally would do any of this.


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