Saudi Preacher Receives Light Sentence for the Fatal Beating of His Five Year Old Daughter

by Katrina Pallop

[Trigger Warning: This post contains a description of sexual and physical assault that may potentially be triggering for survivors of such abuse.]

A Saudi preacher in the city of Riyadh, imprisoned for the murder of his five-year-old daughter, may be looking at an unthinkably light sentence for his crimes. Fayhan Al Gamdi, a Muslim cleric who often appears as a guest on TV networks, confessed to the deadly beating and rape of his young daughter, Lama Al Ghamdi. The girl was admitted to the hospital in December 2011, and passed away this past October. She arrived at the hospital with a broken skull, ribs, and arm, as well as extensive burns and bruising. According to activists, Fayhan Al Gamdi’s brutal attack was carried out because he questioned his daughter’s virginity. 

It has been reported that the preacher attempted to pay his wife $50,000 in “blood money”, in order to come away with a prison sentence of mere months. A judge would be able to make this ruling based on the the Saudi law that a father cannot be put to death for the murder of his wife or children. But Syeda Mohammed Al, the girl’s mother, is refusing to accept such a sentence, and is working to spread the word of her daughter’s tragic fate. With the help of activist groups like Women to Drive (which was originally founded to promote women’s right to drive in the country), the gruesome details of Fayhan Al Gamdi’s crime are being brought to the attention of the media. 

Fayan al-Ghamdi admitted to using a cane and cable to beat Lama Al Ghamdi. According to the hospital staff that treated the girl, she was burned and raped “everywhere”—her “rectum had been torn open and the abuser had attempted to burn it closed.”

On the heels of this horrific event, another Saudi cleric declared that baby girls should be forced to wear burkas, in order to ward off sexual attacks. Sheikh Abdullah Daoud made the pronouncement that newborn girls should wear the veil in order to prevent men from molesting them. And though his comments were immediately shot down and condemned, they reveal deep, flawed ideas about the nature of sex crimes. It is not the fault of young girls that they are prematurely sexualized by people who would harm them. 

As sickening as Fayhan Al Gamdi’s crime is, keeping such atrocities in the public consciousness is necessary to the pursuit of justice for the victims. By refusing to ignore or forget these tragic events, we can help to force the issues of legal reform and justice for women around the world. 



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