A court in Saudi Arabia has sentenced a man to three months in prison and 80 lashes for taking to Twitter to publicly accuse a Kuwaiti singer of adultery.
The Saudi man is reportedly a fan of a rival UAE singer named Ahlam, so in an effort to start rumors about singer Shams, he went on Twitter and accused the entertainer of committing adultery without providing any proof.
Shams filed a lawsuit against the Twitter user for making up the accusations, as well as posting fake pictures of her in compromising situations. Shams won the lawsuit, and now, the Twitter user, who claims he is “the lawyer of Queen Ahlam,” will face the consequences.
Under Sharia Law, anybody who accuses another person of committing adultery without proof will face lashes. Now that the Twitter user has been found guilty, he has been sentenced to 80 public lashes, three months in jail, and a fine of nearly $3,000.
Only one week after getting married, a Kuwaiti woman filed for divorce when she discovered her husband ate peas with bread instead of a fork.
The woman was apparently traumatized by the “shocking sight” and said she could no longer live with her husband, who has poor etiquette.
The news comes as a new study was released revealing there are at least 18 divorce cases a day in the country, according to lawyer Hawra al-Habib.
“One critical issue is that many spouses should use their engagement period to know each other well enough to decide whether they should go on with their union,” one lawyer said.
Experts say the number one reason for divorce in the country is the non-acceptance of couples of one another.
In another case, a woman filed for divorce because her husband squeezed the toothpaste tube in the middle and not the end. In a second case, a man divorced his wife because she refused to bring him a glass of water.
In the United States, a wayward tweet may cost the offender a friendship or even a job, but it’s unlikely to land anyone in prison. Not so in Kuwait, where Musab Shamsah was sentenced to five years for a single Twitter post on the Islamic religion.
Shamsah was convicted on Monday in a Kuwaiti court, which deemed that his tweet about differences between Shia and Sunni theology was offensive. The defendant claims that prosecutors took his message, which was about Mohammed’s grandsons, the wrong way. Shamsah reportedly deleted it within 10 minutes of posting, and followed up with tweets explaining what he meant.
“It’s an insult to all Kuwaitis for the government to give itself the authority to decide what’s insulting to religion, and to jail Kuwaitis for it,” stated Sarah Leah Whitson, who is the Middle East director for the humanitarian group Human Rights Watch. “Let each Kuwaiti decide what he or she finds insulting, and as simple as clicking ‘unfollow,’ decide whether they want to see or hear a message.”
Human Rights Watch is fighting to have all charges against the defendant dropped, and is urging Kuwait to stop prosecuting people for discussing their religious views.
In a similar case, blogger Hamad al-Naqi was convicted of insulting the Prophet and the kings of Saudi Arabia and Bahrai. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and lost his appeal.
“Kuwaiti prosecutors appear to have designated themselves as expert theologians able to ascertain whether opinions on thousand-year-old religious matters might be offensive,” said Whitson. “Don’t Kuwaiti police, judges, and lawyers have anything more important to do than prosecute Kuwaitis engaged in religious debates?”
According to article 111 in Kuwaiti law, the mocking of religion is not allowed. And according to the 2012 National Unity Law, it is illegal to broadcast or publish content that some religious groups might find offensive.
Amidst major revolutions that saw significant political upheaval throughout the Middle East, the country of Saudi Arabia made headlines because its women wanted one simple right: the ability to drive.
Many women throughout the country have been increasingly protesting the country’s ban on women drivers by getting behind the wheel of vehicles, risking arrest and other dangerous forms of backlash.
The country experienced one of its most widespread protests against male-dominated driving culture last week, in which over 60 women took videos of themselves driving in various areas of the country. Although 60 may seem like a small statistic, those women actually comprised the country’s largest protest against the law. According to USA Today, the Saudi activists “have not received any reports of arrests or women ticketed by the police.”
A Kuwaiti woman attempting to get her father to a hospital just across the border in Saudi Arabia was not as lucky as the protesters. Even though the woman was not from Saudi Arabia, and therefore not protesting the country’s driving law in any manner, she was arrested and held in custody as police conducted an investigation on her.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no specific law in Saudi Arabia banning women from driving. The common practice is for women to take drivers or rely on their husbands or fathers to get around. However, women are regularly denied licenses and, as was the case with the Kuwaiti woman, arrested for getting behind the wheel.
According to the Kuwaiti woman, she was driving her father to the hospital because he suffers from diabetes and was unable to drive the vehicle himself. The Kuwait Times reports that the woman “was caught driving a Chevrolet Epica on the ‘Sitteen Road’ in front of a hotel in the area located near the border with Kuwait.”
A proposal apparently exists for a part of the routine clinical screening of expatriates coming into the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC) to be used to “detect” gays.
Gulfnews.com reports that a committee tasked with the status of expatriates will look into the proposal when it meets next month.
“Health centres conduct the routine medical check to assess the health of the expatriates when they come into the GCC countries,” said Yousuf Mindkar, the director of public health at the Kuwaiti health ministry.
“However, we will take stricter measures that will help us detect gays who will be then barred from entering Kuwait or any of the GCC member states,” he added, according to local daily Al Rai.
Homosexual acts are banned in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the GCC member countries. Gulfnews.com also reports that prison terms for homosexual acts in Kuwait can reach 10 years if the people involved were under the age of 21.
Bahrain arrested more than 120 people, mainly gays from the Gulf countries, for holding a “depraved and decadent” party in 2011. The party reportedly brought together gay men from the Arabian Gulf countries. Most of the attendees were between 18 and 30 years old and one Lebanese and one Syrian were among those arrested following the police bust.
An 8-year-old Yemeni girl who was forced to marry a man more than five times her age died from internal injuries sustained on her wedding night.
The girl, identified only as Rawan, died after suffering a tear to her genitals and severe bleeding. The girl’s groom is believed to be over 40 years old.
Yemeni and Kuwaiti activists are asking police to arrest the groom and the girl’s family to help send the message that the practice of marrying young girls to older men has to end.
Many bloggers were outraged by what happened to the young girl, UPI reported.
“[The groom] is an animal who deserved to be punished severely for his crime,” according to blogger Angry Man. “All those who supported such a crime should also be punished.”
Another blogger, Omar, wrote: “Rawan’s family members are not humans. They do not deserve to have children.”
A third blogger, Sad, sounded a little more understanding of the tradition. “Her family and her groom could have waited for some time before having this marriage,” Sad wrote. “It was not fair at all and the marriage should not have happened even if some tribes believe that it is a good custom.”
Kuwaiti teacher, Huda al-Ajmi, who called for the overthrow of Kuawait’s leader on Twitter, was sentenced to 11 years in jail on Monday. Ajmi's punishment is the harshest for online opposition in Kuwait thus far.
“This is the highest sentence of its kind in these kinds of cases,” one source said.
The exact tweet has yet to be released.
Ajmi was convicted of insulting Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. Insulting the emir is forbidden in the Kuwait constitution, where the emir is described as an “immune and inviolable” figure.
According to Human Rights Watch, 25 people have been charged with offending the emir since last October, and at least six have been sentenced to prison. Ajmi is the first woman to incite offense.
Despite her sentence, Ajmi has yet to be taken into custody and has been given the option to appeal the verdict. In Kuwait, it is unusual for women to receive jail time for political crimes. Additionally, Kuwait prides itself as a state more liberal than its neighbors, especially where freedom of expression is concerned, and might be more lenient in Ajmi’s case.
Last month, former Parliament member, Mussallam al-Barak, was sentenced to five years in prison for calling the emir an autocrat. However, he managed to overturn his appeal.
The United States has called for greater freedom of expression in Kuwait.