Saudi Arabia: Forty Lashes for a 75-year-old Woman for ‘Mingling’ with Men

A 75-year-old Syrian woman was sentenced to 40 lashes, four months imprisonment and deportation from Saudi Arabia, for having two unrelated men in her house.

The men were reportedly taking bread to the widow Khamisa Sawadi, who was married to a Saudi, and one of them was her late husband's nephew. The two men were also charged with ‘mingling’ with an unrelated woman and sentenced to prison and lashes, sparking criticism for the country's judiciary and the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice.

Saudi Arabia's bloggers speak up.

Saudi Jeans remarks:

After the recent blunders of our very dysfunctional justice system, you would think judges will become more careful when they handle some cases. Not so much, unfortunately.

The blogger continues:

So Saudi Arabia takes another slap in the face. It is also a slap in the face for the new minister of justice, who obviously needs to fight really hard in order to end the embarrassments caused by our courts and implement the much publicized changes in the justice system.

Saudi Jeans‘ post has attracted about 40 comments at the time of writing this post.

A female Saudi blogger Sabria Jawhar also tackles Sawadi's case and links it recent worldwide celebrations of the International Day of Women saying:

I don’t think that Khamisa Sawadi celebrated International Women’s Day last Sunday. […] International Women’s Day celebrates the economic, political and social achievements of women in the past and the present.

While the event is a national holiday in some countries, such as China and Russia, it goes largely unnoticed by women n Saudi Arabia. The case of Khamisa Sawadi is evidence that the social achievements of Saudi women remain a distant dream.

While Jawhar acknowledges that Saudi women have taken a few steps forward, their reality remains grim. She explains:

Saudi Arabia has made significant strides in the advancement of women in key government positions. The appointments of Noral Al-Faiz as deputy minister for Girls’ Education and Dr. Fatimah Abdullah Al-Saleem as cultural attaché at the Saudi Embassy in Canada by the Ministry of Higher Education, inspires Saudi women. Saudi women view Al-Faiz and Al-Saleem as role models, recognizing that they, too, can achieve success on their own terms.

Yet the social realities are that Al-Faiz and Al-Saleem are the exceptions, not the rule, of what Saudi women face in the future. For every Al-Faiz and Al-Saleem there are 100 Khamisa Sawadis. For every female Saudi graduate student studying abroad, there are 100 other Saudi women denied their right to divorce abusive husbands or to gain custody of their children.

Crossroads Arabia says this case drives home the need to codify the Saudi law, which are now based on Islamic Sharia (religious law) and the discretion and interpretation of individual judges. John Burgess adds:

The conviction stands as another example of why Saudi law must be codified.
I do not insist that Saudi law be like American or any other nation’s laws. I do think, though, that it should be rational and clear enough that anyone has a clear idea if he or she is breaking a law. Leaving judgments to the independent wisdom of individual judges does not assure that and results in messes like this.

And finally American Sand gets in my eyes cannot see the logic in the sentences. She writes:

Mmm. Let's recap. The two young men were actually being charitable to an elderly woman. You might even say they were bringing her her daily bread. They were sentenced to lashes and jail.

The elderly woman was reaching out to someone she considered a family member, someone she had – in her old age – come to depend upon. She was sentenced to lashes and jail.

And the men charged with promoting virtue…well those guys hid in the bushes, lied about their identities and then had the audacity to arrest an elderly woman in need of charity, and the young men who came to her need.


  • this article is messed up I mean what 75 year old woman is going to mingle with other guys and if she is who cares what is it against the law? its not right what she has to do what happened to freedom? does she have any rights? Just because she was getting bread from a nonrealitive doesn’t mean shes doing anything with that person(s)

  • ppppppsssssssshhhhhh 1st of all those non relatives are just helping a old lady shes 75 why would she be acused of mingling its not right that shes in jail she didnn’t do anything wrong. This world is messed up you can’t do anything without anyone saying its wrong and make a stupid law about it…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….wow things have changed for the worse

  • Rob Stuart-Vail

    It is quite reminiscent of America in Pilgrim times – same mindset, same devotion to religious beliefs that we now laugh at in civilized countries. Witch trials, ducking stools (the 17th century version of water-boarding) – those people came from an England where the penalty could be hanging (until almost dead), drawing (the intestines out of the victim) and then quartering (tying him to horses that would pull his limbs until they tore off. Lovely, wasn’t it? Can we wait 300 years for the Prophet’s people to grow up?

  • I am glad I live in a country that claims to be CHRISTian – She will be somebodies GrandMum and should be able to do that – Onward – Jim

    • natalya

      I agree. I so happy I live in this country that would help out an elder. As a matter of fact you’re pretty sick if you didn’t!
      And by the way one of the men involved was that lady’s family, it was her nephew.

  • Hasan

    It’s not Bin Laden or Taliban or Al-Qaeda, its the Wahhabi ideology driven Saudi justice system which puts the entire Muslim world into a shame.

  • Anne-Sophie

    As i read this article, i couldn´t believe what i was reading. Respecting the elderly is of high importance in Denmark – and in all other countries i have been to as well- and helping them is too. So how can a country disrespect an old woman like that? Who allows these actions, and simply watches as women are being deprived of all of their rights? We certaintly do! We are in the year 2009, and most of the world have adjusted to the inevitable progress that the world are going through. So why can´t Saudi Arabia? I somehow blame the more developed countries, such as my own, as Saudi Arabia clearly can´t break free from the box that their community are locked up in. Information is the key, and it is our jobs as politically active countries to step in and change their point of view. Shame on us!

  • Ashley

    makes you realize how lucky you are to be where your from, for me its Canada. I think its unfair to the elderly lady and she should not be sent to prison or the lashes over something so little.

  • Kabir

    By doing this saudis have set an example so things like this would never occure further damage the image and preventing things like incest and homosexual etc.That happend recently in austria.But i hope they should consider not giving 40 lashes to that old lady she will not bear it and decrease her imprisonment somehow.

  • Debbie

    I feel sorry for the judges. Their Judge will not look kindly upon the fact that they ignored His commands that leaders show justice to the poor, and kindness to elderly, widows and orphans. The elderly lady’s punishment was harsh and unjust. She is much more likely to end up spending eternity in Abraham’s presence than her judges. Their sentence will be eternal life in a very hot place with no water, no light and no loving God to hold their stone hearts in his hand.

    But there are men like that in every culture. I just learned of a retarded elderly man here in the USA whose father and brother died leaving him alone in the family home. He didn’t know how to write a check to pay for the taxes on his home. So after a time, the state took his home away and sold it for back taxes. He lives on the street sleeping next to garbage cans. So you can see that evil and greed live in every nation.

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