Lama was a five-year-old half Egyptian, half Saudi girl. Her mother was born in Egypt and immigrated to Saudi over 25 years ago. Her father, sheikh Fayhan Al Ghamdi, was a frequent guest speaker on Islamists channels. Al Ghamdi divorced Lama’s mother and took custody of Lama soon afterwards. In this video he tears up at the plight of orphans as he talks about the religious rewards of adoption.
According to news reports, Al Ghamdi told the judge that Lama was behaving strangely and that he questioned her virginity. He went as far as to have a medical professional check that her virginity was intact. Her mother said in an interview on Ali Al Olayani’s show that she felt that there was something wrong three months before Lama was admitted to the hospital but that her ex-husband would only allow her short telephone conversations.
She begged him to give her the girl but he refused. By the time she finally got to see her, Lama was in the ICU. Her mother described her to Al Olayani; Lama had one of her fingernails removed, the side of her head was smashed and the rest of her body was covered up. She had to hear from hospital staff and social workers how Lama’s rectum was torn open and that the abuser had attempted to burn it closed. Randa Al Kaleeb, a social worker from the hospital where Lama was, told Al Olayani in a phone interview that Lama’s back was broken as well and that she had been raped “everywhere”.
It’s a horror story on all levels. Yet the horror did not end with Lama’s death last October, as the court has initially decided that the four months that the father/murderer spent in prison is enough time and that all he has to do is pay blood money. Four months and a few thousand riyals is the cost of Lama’s innocence and life.
This outcome is based on a hadith that does not occur in the two top resources for hadith, Bukhari and Muslim. It also goes against the Quran’s condemnation of fathers who murder their daughters. The hadith translates into “A father is not executed for his child.” Of course the patriarchal misogynistic scholars and judges who use this hadith to justify not punishing Al Ghamdi, do not care about the long-term implications of such a ruling.
According to Suhalia Zainalabdeen, a member of the National Society for Human Rights, in all of her career she knows of only one case in which a father was severely punished for torturing and killing his daughter. She says that this leniency is also extended to those who murder their wives. She gives two examples of similar cases. One in which a husband cut his wife’s throat as she was breastfeeding their child and he only got five years for it. Another is the case of a husband who tied his wife to his car and dragged her until she died. He got twelve years.
If that’s what murdering male guardians get, can you imagine the leniency when those they abuse don’t die? Male guardians are legally able to sell their daughters as child brides. There are no laws that protect children, especially girls. When a child protection system was proposed to the Shura council, they got stuck on how to define childhood without banning child marriages. Stories of mothers who cannot get custody or protect their daughters from abusive fathers abound.
I personally spoke with a social worker that has twelve years experience in the system. She told me that what usually happens is that the abused woman would go to the police. The police would then call the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV) and the woman’s male guardian who is in most cases her abuser. So there would be the woman surrounded by policemen, clerics and her abuser. The aim is to “reconcile” the woman and her guardian. The social worker told me that the police and clerics would keep trying at the reconciliation for up to four hours. If the woman refuses to leave the station with her guardian, only then would social workers be called and protection offered.
There are no reports that I know of where abusers were sentenced for abusing their daughters and/or wives. The worst they get is a short detainment for questioning and in the worst cases they are required to sign a pledge to not do it again.
Apologists and extremists perpetuate that the male guardianship system turns women to queens. That might be true but only in a macabre sense of the word.