Maghreb citizens outraged by stoning of raped Somali girl
By Sarah Touahri in Rabat, Jamel Arfaoui in Tunis and Said Jameh in Algiers for Magharebia – 07/11/08
Many Maghreb citizens, Islamic scholars and human rights activists have vigorously condemned the stoning death last week of a 13-year-old Somali rape victim judged guilty of adultery. Some have expressed utter astonishment at how such an act of barbarism could be directed at a child in the name of religion.
The young girl, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was raped by three men while visiting her grandmother in Mogadishu. After returning home to the southern port of Kismayu, she reported the attack to the al-Shabab militia who control the city. Instead of apprehending the offenders, prosecutors charged her with adultery and the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) sentenced her to death. On Tuesday (October 27th), Aisha was forced into a hole, buried up to her neck and pelted with stones by a group of 50 men in a Kismayu stadium.
"Don't kill me, don't kill me," the girl reportedly pleaded. More than 1,000 people watched as she died.
"This is a tragic and deplorable accident. The girl was a double victim of those who raped her and those who administered justice, said UNICEF's Somalia representative, Christian Balslev-Olesen.
"This accident demonstrates the extreme fragility of the status of women and girls in Somalia," he added. Somalia's chronic instability since the 1991 civil war has exacerbated gender-related acts of violence in the country, UNICEF has noted.
That a raped woman should be stoned is inconceivable to Moroccan Islamist Justice and Development Party MP Bassima Hakkaoui. "In principle, the state has laws which specify which party is supposed to give judgement, along with the nature of the crime. It defies logic to hand down a death sentence to a woman who has been raped," she said.
"Islam has nothing to do with such practices," she told Magharebia.
Islamic education teacher Hamid Baalla agrees, explaining that the Muslim religion condemns rape and those who perpetrate the offence. The unanimous view of the ulemas is that rape victims must not be considered to have committed a sexual offence. The rapist, rather than the victim, must be punished.
"You cannot describe people who resort to such actions as Muslim. These people are radicals and extremists," he added, pointing out that theologians and ulemas have an important role to play in educating the public.
Moroccan Organisation for Human Rights President Amina Bouayache also expressed anger at this atrocity. It is extremely difficult to put these "inhuman, barbarous" acts into words, she told Magharebia.
"This is a crime against humanity," she exclaimed. "Back in the days of the Prophet Mohammed, they banned the practice of burying girls alive, as they used to do at that time. It's a symbolic act of humanity and justice."
To women's rights activist Hind Mbarki, the stoning is "an act of terrorism towards the Somali people, particularly women".
She feels that human rights associations have to play a role in combating extremism and protecting women's rights, even when they come up against tradition. She says, for example, that the fight against female circumcision has yielded results. Thanks to the efforts of NGOs, she added, "women have been able to obtain their rights in a number of Arab and Muslim countries". What happened to young Aisha, however, is not an isolated incident.
"This isn't the first time we've seen irrational, radical practices of this kind," Mbarki told Magharebia.
The Moroccan public has been equally critical of the Somali stoning. Teacher Farida Maaroufi cannot understand the attackers' thinking. She thinks the atrocious stoning of an adolescent girl is an inhuman act contrary to the teaching of Islam.
"The stoning prescribed for cases of adultery can only be considered if four people have been actual eyewitnesses to the crime. This is practically impossible to achieve. And what's more, we're talking about a child who has been raped. Only radicals would resort to such practices," she said.
Student Mohamed Fatihi blames the Somali authorities for everything that happened.
"This is a justice system which has adopted a façade of Islamic law to apply what are, in reality, age-old tribal customs. Everyone, especially human rights associations and governments, must act to put an end to this situation," he told Magharebia.
Algerian civil society has also unanimously condemned Aisha's execution.
Zakia Gawaou, head of the Mounia Association for the Protection of Single Women, said that young Aisha was victimised twice, first when she was raped, and second when the court sentenced her to death and executed her. She noted that Aisha should have been done justice by a "legitimate" court, but instead of being treated as a rape victim, she was indicted and blamed for the crime, which is totally unacceptable.
Magharebia asked Houssine Mohamed, a Muslim scholar, about the Islamic interpretation of the incident.
"Adultery, in Aisha's case, was not voluntary. She was a victim of rape, as is the case of many young girls and women in Algeria who are raped by extremists. Therefore, sentencing her to death cannot be related to Islam." He further wondered how a sentence could be passed against the girl while the perpetrators go unpunished.
The incident was a shock to Algerians, many of whom said the shameful act calls for severe denunciation, not just in Somalia but in all Islamic states across the world.
Hassina, a mother of a minor girl, said she was shattered when she read the news on the internet, describing what happened as "oppression" perpetrated against a minor girl who expected authorities deliver justice and restore her dignity. According to Hassina, the sentence has nothing to do with Islam.
In the same vein, Samir B. told Magharebia, "Such practices do Islam more harm than good, and give the impression that our faith approves of extremism and intolerance, as demonstrated by extremist groups that shed blood mercilessly."
"What happened to the Somali girl is indeed shameful," he added. "That sentence is based on a misinterpretation of Islamic sharia, and that is the worst part."
One young man, Mouloud, compared the latest incident in Somalia to executions by the Taliban in Afghanistan. He recalled images of men and women beheaded in a stadium right before the eyes of thousands of people.
In Tunisia, the young girl's stoning also provoked outrage. Khadija Cherif, President of the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women, said it was a brutal, barbaric act committed by monsters that have nothing to do with humanity. She added, "We condemn violence against women for whatever reason or purpose, especially violence that denies human beings of their right to live."
"This is an act committed by people who are living outside history. The danger doesn't lie with those people, but with those who just watch what they do without confronting them strongly and firmly," said Sofiene Ben Hmida of the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights.
"Regardless of the crime, what is needed is to confront the religious ideology that allows the stoning of people," Ben Hmida added, noting that, after all, "we're living in a world governed by laws and traditions, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights".
From her side, political Islam specialist Saloua Charfi said that what took place "is some sort of backwardness and a violation of human rights". Surat An-Nur in the Qur'an dealt in a very clear way with the punishment of women and men who commit adultery, Charfi said. "It doesn't mention anything about stoning people to death."
Dr. Iqbal Gharbi, professor of Sharia and Religious Principles at Zeitouna University, considered the case a violation of the teachings of Islam and an "act of barbarism worthy of denunciation".
"There are clear rules in the Qur'an, which is the source of legislation," said Gharbi, who also noted that there are no verses in the Qur'an calling for stoning. These rules, she said, only concern married people, adding that in extreme cases a male or female adulterer is to be whipped one hundred times. Other punishments range from imprisonment to inflicting "financial or moral harm".
Gharbi said punishment can be applied only when four witnesses testify verbally before the judge, and provided they have been present at the same place and time. "The insistence of the judge to bring in four witnesses is to protect women against conspiracies and to defend their bodily sanctity," she said.
"This confirms that the move taken by the ICU is not only in violation of Islam, but is a defamation of Islam and its humanitarian values."
"These are medieval crimes that are applied in the name of religion," Tunisian student Bouthaina Ben Salah told Magharebia.
"The people shouldn't be silent."
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