Monday, January 14, 2008

Saudi Justice

While perusing through my copy of Eyewitness to History last night for my post Things Left Unsaid, I came across a Westerner's description of two executions he witnessed in Saudi Arabia in 1958.

A man and a woman were found guilty of murdering the woman's husband and both were sentenced to death. The man was publicly decapitated with a sword. Then it was the woman's turn. But was her fate to be executed as swiftly and painlessly as the man? Nope. Not a chance.

"The recital of her crime...was read out as she knelt, and then the executioner stepped forward with a wooden stave and dealt a hundred blows with all his strength on her shoulder."

"As the flogging ended the woman sagged over on her side."

"Next, a lorry loaded with rocks and stones was backed up and its cargo deposited in a pile. At a signal from the prince the crowd leaped on the stones and started pelting the woman to death."

"It was difficult to determine how she was facing her last and awful ordeal, since she was veiled in Muslim fashion and her mouth was gagged in order to muffle her cries." (After all, why spoil a good stoning by letting the stoners actually hear the agonized cries of the woman they were stoning. Can't let them feel any twinges of mercy or compassion, right?)

"Had this scene been taking place in the middle of the desert it would have been grim enough, but that it should have been enacted in the heart of modern Jeddah's business neighborhood lent it a dismally macabre quality."

"The crowd were no longer silent. The men snarled and shouted as they flung their stones, their faces transformed into masks of sadism."

And finally, "It took just over an hour before the doctor in attendance, who halted the stoning periodically to feel the victim's pulse, announced her dead."

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