A 75 year-old Syrian woman has been sentenced to suffer 40 lashes, 4 months in jail, and deportation from Saudi Arabia after hosting two unrelated men in her home.
Khamisa Mohammed Sawadi's home in the city of Al-Chamli was entered by religious police from the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice last year. The police found her with two men not her relatives -- a crime under Saudi law.
One of the men claimed to have been nursed as a baby by Sawadi, making him her son according to Islamic law. The other said he was delivering bread to the elderly woman. Both men were arrested, according to Saudi daily Al-Watan.
Saudi Arabia is a strict Wahabi Islamic country, which punishes unrelated men and women who are caught mingling. Women are also required to follow a strict dress code, are forbidden from driving, and need to have a man's permission to travel.
The men were also sentenced to severe punishments by the Saudi court. One was sentenced to four months in prison and 40 lashes, the other six months in prison and 60 lashes.
Sawadi plans to appeal her sentence, which she will base on her assertion that one of the men is indeed her son through breastfeeding. Sawadi and the two men will be defended by a top Saudi human rights lawyer, Abdulrahman Al-Lahem, who volunteered his services to the defendees.
Saudi courts are traditionally chauvinistic. In 2007, a 19-year-old girl who was raped by 7 men in the Saudi city of Qatif was sentenced to 200 lashes and six months in prison for meeting with an unrelated male immediately prior to the incident. The rapists received sentences ranging from 10 months to five years in prison. Public outrage forced Saudi King Abdullah to pardon the teenage victim.
Earlier this month, two male Saudi novelists were detained for questioning after trying to get the autograph of female writer Halima Muzfar at a book fair in the capital city of Riyadh.