Aisha Bint Abdullah

Aisha Bint Abdullah

Journalist

Saudi Arabia rallies to rescue alleged domestic abuse victim

In the past few days, Saudi Arabia saw a number of official authorities take swift and strict action in response to a domestic abuse victim’s heart wrenching plea for rescue. The Saudi woman’s repeated calls for help, which culminated in a video documenting her domestic and violence abuse, went viral on social media.

Saudi Arabia’s civil community and activists quickly took to social media to broadcast the video, urging concerned and official authorities to urgently intervene to the victim’s rescue. Authorities responded in full force; the ‘Asir region emirate – where the abuse took place – the Saudi Human Rights Commission, the General Prosecution, the Ministry of Labor and social development, and local media outlets all closely followed on the situation to lend their support.

The starting point

It all began when Twitter users shared the video of a woman pleading to stop what seemed to be a vicious domestic violence attack. In only a few minutes, Twitter users successfully located the attack, and they were able to identify Al Hyam city in the ‘Asir region as the place where it happened.

Immediately, the Ministry of Labor and Social Development answered the social media pleas, and began efforts to reach out to the abused woman. On Twitter, the ministry’s official spokesman, Khaled Abalkhail, openly invited anyone from the public with information on the matter to report it to the ministry’s concerned department. In tandem, Mohammed Al-Maadi, the Saudi Human Rights Commission’s  spokesman, announced that the commission had begun urgent communication with the ‘Asir emirate to investigate and report the incident.  

On the evening of the incident, all local media outlets extensively covered the case, and followed on the official authorities’ course of action to address it.

A surprising turn of events

The collective efforts of authorities, activists and media bore fruit. They were able to reach the abused woman’s house and move her to the hospital at record speed. Alarmed by the woman’s claims that she was neither abused nor harmed, authorities investigated the possibility of her denying the attack under pressure and threats.

Psychological experts urged the women to reveal the truth around what happened for her and for other women’s sake, warning that her silence would further aggravate the problem and future abuse by the alleged perpetrator. Meanwhile, renowned Saudi lawyer and writer Abdulrahman Al Lahem, who has earned a name in human rights’ cases, demanded that all of the alleged attacker’s relatives be revealed; his demands were in response to claims that the woman who had appeared in the video was not the same woman to have undergone the medical examination by authorities. Moreover, Al Lahem also called for testimonials from the alleged attacker’s family and neighbors around his history of domestic abuse and violence.

On Twitter, Al Lahem categorically denied that the woman who recorded and spread the video be accused of libel and slander, noting that such an indictment requires that the individual who was slandered be identifiable and known by the public.

General prosecution

Against these mounting issues, concerned authorities decided to redirect the situation to the General Prosecution for an extensive investigation of the incident. To this end, the women who took the video of the abuse was interrogated around what was not shown to the public. She confirmed that the video was not fabricated, and that the woman who appeared in it was, indeed, subjected to abuse on the hands of a relative.

However, medical reports showed no signs of abuse or violence on the woman who was taken to the hospital. Security forces and social protection authorities also confirmed the same.

Witness protection

Despite conclusive reports by concerned authorities that the Saudi woman in question was not abused, the General Prosecution stated that it will be releasing the witness who took the video on a “goodwill” basis – adding that it is not to reveal the identity of the individual who reported the incident without their consent, unless in cases defined by the law.

The alleged perpetrator came out to the media to deny the accusations against him. Outcomes aside, the mass mobilization of authorities, activists and the wider Saudi community reflect positive developments and a collective support culture to prevent such domestic abuse cases in the future – particularly in ensuring women’s protection and integrity.

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