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Saudi woman allegedly beaten by family prompts social media campaign

Women in Saudi Arabia face rising cases of domestic abuse, with one case this week leading to a spate of posts highlighting the issue
Some users argue just highlighting cases of domestic violence on social media is not enough (Reuters)

In what has become a haunting pattern in Saudi Arabia, hashtags circulating on social media are calling for the life of a woman, allegedly subjected to domestic violence, to be saved.

Sabah al-Qahtani, 36, was said to have been the victim of domestic abuse after she was violently forced by her siblings to sign a document dividing their inheritance. 

Qahtani allegedly fainted as a result of being beaten, and was admitted to hospital by her siblings on the pretext that she had attempted to commit suicide.  

The hashtags “Save Sabah al-Qahtani” and “Sabah al-Qahtani is in danger” have been widely circulated this week, after images were released of Qahtani in hospital with visible marks of apparent abuse on her body.

The Saudi province of Asir, where the events took place, issued a statement regarding the incident.

The report said that a woman in her 30s had been admitted to hospital as a result of attempted self-harm through the consumption of a quantity of medication. A family dispute is cited as the reason for the woman’s actions.

The report goes on to say that the woman in question was given psychological and medical care. The province has launched an investigation and has taken the issue to the public prosecution. 

According to voice recordings and videos shared on social media, Qahtani is still in danger. Once she was discharged from the hospital, her brother - said to be armed - is thought to have tracked her down and confronted her. 

'The Saudi woman is afraid'

Hashtags on social media that attempt to save women from domestic violence have become routine in Saudi Arabia.

In just the past week, the hashtag “save Rose” was trending with reports of a young girl being subjected to violence from her father, who allegedly stopped her from studying and threatened her life.

Prior to that, the hashtag “justice for Hadil al-Harthi” was circulating, after Harthi was reportedly stabbed to death by her brother.

Now, social media users in Saudi Arabia have started to use the hashtag “The Saudi woman is afraid” to voice their concerns about domestic violence and the lack of justice for victims.

One user took to listing names of recent alleged victims of domestic abuse in the kingdom to showcase just how long that list has become.

Translation: The Saudi citizen is not afraid, but Sabah is frightened, Alunood was afraid, Hadil was afraid, Manar was afraid, Qamar was afraid, and the list of all the women who were frightened, and no one heard their voices, is getting longer. 

Meanwhile, with so many cases emerging in succession, others have taken to Twitter to express their fatigue regarding the issue.

Translation: Every day a new victim, every day a life of violence. Every day we hear this news as if it is a routine practice of our life. Who is responsible??? Who protects these innocent souls who have no strength or power - for how long? 

For some, simply highlighting cases of domestic violence on social media is not enough.  

Translation: Are you waiting for the girl to die so that the hashtag trend comes out? Save lives, stop killing, save girls' lives who are subjected to verbal and physical violence, save lives, save women, save them. 

But with such an influx of cases, and an apparent lack of justice for the victim or legislation to halt this pattern, social media seems to be the only place where such stories can surface and garner widespread attention.