Saudi King Cancels Whipping of Female Driver

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The king of Saudi Arabia, who has been making some reforms in an effort to drag that country firmly into the 17th century, has overturned the punishment handed out to Shaima Jastaina, convicted of the unholy crime of "driving without permission" in July. Jastaina had been sentenced to be lashed 10 times for defying the (unwritten) ban on female driving.

The sentence was handed out the day after King Abdullah said – if you can believe this – that women would actually be allowed to vote and even hold office, at least at the municipal level, as early as 2015. (Abdullah is 87 now, so maybe he expects to be dead by then.) The ruling in Jastaina's case was widely seen as "payback" for the king's ultra-radical announcement.

Dozens of women have dared to drive in Saudi Arabia over the past few months, most of them with Satan openly riding along in the passenger seat. (He likes to stick his head out the window.) A number of them were arrested for doing so and at least one of them will shortly be appearing before the same prosecutor who heroically ordered a woman to be whipped. Will Abdullah continue to spare the lash? Probably, but stay tuned.

In 2007, Abdullah pardoned a woman who had been sentenced to six months in prison and 200 lashes for the crime of "being alone in a car with a man not related to her." This offense was apparently discovered by the seven men who gang-raped her and beat up her companion. They did get prison time, but the woman was also set to be punished until Abdullah pardoned her. "[H]e is sure that the verdicts were fair," his justice minister said, and was only intervening to commute the sentence. Such is the line he's apparently forced to walk.

Prior anti-lady sentences covered here have included the public lashings of several Sudanese women found guilty of wearing pants in public, and the case of a Malaysian woman who was sentenced to be caned for drinking a beer.

To be fair, there are countries in the world that will occasionally blow up their own citizens without a trial, although they do let women drive and wear pants and such. So I guess it's all relative.