Rape in Mecca: Algerians seethe with anger

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The alleged rape and murder of a young Franco-Algerian girl in Mecca has set Algerian public opinion ablaze. An investigation was opened on Thursday to determine the circumstances leading to the macabre death. Many are shocked to see such crimes occur in Islam’s holiest land. But this is not the first in a place where hapless victims of rape rather suffer the wrath of an archaic justice system.

The Saudi authorities Thursday opened an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of a young Franco-Algerian in Mecca. The 15 year old girl who had arrived from Marseilles, France, was found dead Wednesday on the roof of a building adjacent to where she resided.

According to some Saudi newspapers, she threw herself from the balcony of her hotel as she tried to escape an attempted rape. Conversely, the Algerian press says that the young girl was raped and killed.

Mecca police spokesman, commander Abdel Mohsen, quoted by the Saudi daily Al-Watan, said that “two illegal hotel employees of Arab nationality, were arrested and questioned”. The newspaper, basing its arguments on testimonies collected among the hotel’s employee, said that the girl had a close relationship with one of the suspects.

Reportedly, the girl had asked permission from her father and left her room to join an older woman with whom she often dined. Forensic examination, according to several Saudi news sources, showed that the victim did not suffer rape. A statement most Algerians doubt.

Consul to the rescue

The case has aroused anger among Algerian pilgrims in Mecca. Some 300 of them gathered outside the hotel Wednesday to demand an investigation into the circumstances leading to the death of the girl.

And the Consul General of Algeria in Saudi Arabia, Salah Al-Atiya, had to rush to the scene to calm down the agitated crowd. Algerian newspapers on Thursday said that the girl had been raped and killed by Pakistani and Yemeni workers, who threw her corpse away.

The case, which has since Wednesday made headlines within the the Arab world, has sent public Algerian opinion into complete frenzy. “What shocked everyone is not the act but the place of the act! Imagine such an act occurring in the vicinity of the Vatican,” writes an Algerian on one of the many forums devoted to the topic.

Saudi Arabia and sexual assault

Nonetheless, this is not the first time such an act has been committed in Islam’s holy land. It is not unusual to read about such crimes within and around Mecca in the Saudi press.

Late March 2010, five Burmese nationals were arrested for kidnapping and raping a young girl and her mother in the Kaâkia neighborhood.

In August 2009, two young Saudis abducted a 27 year old woman in a parking lot near the Grand Mosque, and raped her, before dumping her in the desert.

But in one of the most conservative countries in the world, sometimes there are far worse institutional attrocities than the infamous rape of a woman.. the punishment of traumatised victims of rape for horrible violations suffered on the hands of criminals.

In February 2009, a Saudi court sentenced a woman who had been gang raped to a one year prison sentence and 100 lashes. The young woman was punished for having accepted a lift from a man.

In November 2007, a 19 year-old woman was sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes for talking about a gang rape she suffered in an interview with the Human Rights Watch organization.

Saudi Arabia, one of the largest producers of oil in the world is also among the most backward countries when it comes to respecting the rights of women.

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