BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Languages
Last Updated: Friday, 30 April 2004, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Beaten Saudi woman speaks out
Rania al-Baz before and after her beating (Arab News)
Rania al-Baz suffered multiple fractures (picture: Arab News)

Earlier this month, a prominent Saudi television presenter made international headlines when she permitted newspapers to print horrific images of injuries she said she had sustained from an alleged beating by her husband.

Rania al-Baz's bruised and swollen face shocked the global community - and ignited an unprecedented public debate within Saudi Arabia itself over the normally taboo issue of domestic violence.

In an interview with the BBC's Outlook programme, Ms Baz reveals why she felt compelled to speak out about what happened to her and the extraordinary reaction her decision has prompted.


I'm fine now, but I've had to undergo some facelift surgery, After the injury I was in a very bad state and was about to die.

My husband first tried to strangle me until I fell unconscious, then he tried to smash my face.

Every violent man will be able to see the suffering that he causes and every woman afraid of falling into a similar situation will be able to avoid what happened to me

Later he took me to the hospital while I was still unconscious and dropped me off at the gate. He didn't give them my name, my family's telephone number or anything about me.

When my mother finally arrived, the doctor told her I had only a 3% chance of survival.

The reason why he beat me up was very trivial, we had an argument in which we exchanged no more than four sentences.

He had no reason for attacking me this way, but it wasn't the first time he was violent, although he had never been that violent before.

Encouraging victims

I kept silent until now because I didn't want to see my family being torn apart. I thought that maybe if I was patient enough I could make him change.

Now that I've made my story public, I'm scared. I've almost been through death, so I guess it's pretty normal that I now fear for my life and for my children's lives.

I decided to have my picture published so that it would be a lesson for others, for every man and every woman.

I'm just hoping that the judge will be fair to me and that my husband receives a punishment equal to what he did to me. No more, no less
Every violent man will be able to see the suffering that he causes and every woman who is afraid of falling into a similar situation will be able to avoid what happened to me.

Some people have called me a heroine for doing so, but I don't know why.

Maybe people have appreciated that I dared to talk about a taboo subject so that others don't face the same thing.

In my opinion it isn't about being heroic, but about talking about what happens in reality.

However uncomfortable it is, it's better to talk about reality than to pretend that nothing bad is ever happening.

I believe I've encouraged other victims of domestic violence to follow suit.

I'm now campaigning with a human rights organisation which has received many letters and I have also received personally many letters of support from women saying that they will fight back.

Hoping for justice

My husband has now handed himself over to the police.

He became besieged by the police and the media - including the newspapers which published my picture - so it was better for him and I think it was courageous of him to do so.

A judge is now going to deal with our case. I have faith in the Saudi justice system, but I don't know what the sentence will be.

I'm just hoping that the judge will be fair to me and that my husband receives a punishment equal to what he did to me. No more, no less.

I was a well-known television presenter and I hope I'll be able to go back to my job without bruises.

The doctors assured me that my face will be almost 70% the same as it used to be.

But if it isn't, I might go back and work behind the scenes.


What do you think of Rania's decision to have images of her injuries released to the public? Do you think her actions will make a difference in encouraging women to act against domestic violence?

A selection of your comments:

Rania has been able to make her story public and recognized by the law due to her high profile stature. Unfortunately there is nothing guaranteeing the same legal treatment for other victims of such crimes in Saudi Arabia.
Tarek Masri, Beirut, Lebanon

Such courage should inspire us all
Charlotte, London, UK
Women's rights in Saudi are reported as being almost non-existent - Saudi Arabia now has a high-profile chance to prove that it cares about the welfare of its female citizens and that they are not legal non-entities. Well done to her, such courage should inspire us all.
Charlotte, London, UK

I was so very saddened to see the outcome of such violence towards a women by her husband. There is so much violence in the world today but this has to be the worst kind, when it is used by someone you love. I am proud that you have been brave enough to show the world that you have been so terribly abused, but so very sorry to see this abuse. I hope and pray that your recovery is to a high standard, and I wish you well in your future endeavours. God Bless you.
Elizabeth Burke, London, UK

Domestic violence is an extremely difficult subject to deal with, especially when you are experiencing it first hand. Sadly enough I think that as long as countries like the US maintain such close ties with countries like Saudi Arabia, which has an appalling human rights' record and lives under a western supported dictatorship issues like this will go unchanged. It is time that countries separated themselves from Saudi Arabia in an attempt to make them change their attitudes toward woman and human rights abuses in general.
Aimee, Boston, USA

She is able to more effectively make her message heard and to open up discussion
Christine, New Zealand
I agree with Husam Akoud of Washington, DC and Adam of the UK (below) that the situation of Ms Rania al Baz is on an equal level of seriousness with the cases of other victims of domestic violence, the world over. However, as a high-profile public figure, her case is of more "general interest" and so she is able to more effectively make her message heard and to open up discussion. Ms Rania al Baz is to be commended for taking her responsibility as a public figure so seriously.
Christine, New Zealand

Rania moved me not only because she spoke out but because she took an action in society where it is extremely difficult for women suffering from domestic violence to go public. I believe women in Saudi have been waiting for someone like Rania to prove that there is a possibility for them to stand up and fight for basic human rights. I don't want Rania to go behind the scenes even if her face does not recover more than 70%. For all women around the world, I hope Rania can regain confidence to remain as a front line TV presenter whatever her face looks like after the operation and that the media accepts her as she is.
K . Naveed, London

It is brave that Rania published her story but I feel really annoyed at the ignorance of some of these comments. domestic violence doesn't only happen in middle eastern or Islamic countries, so why do people make it into an 'Islamic' topic or associate it with this religion? There are clear reports of high rates of this kind of behaviour in western countries including the UK and USA. Domestic violence is a terrible thing to endure and no one deserves this kind of treatment.
Fozia, Huddersfield

I was beaten up imprisoned and nearly killed by my husband
Jackie, UK
I was beaten up imprisoned and nearly killed by my husband. I took this for six months till one night my kids cried and he nearly killed me. I spoke out and he was charged with false imprisonment ABH and GBH and he was let off with a two year suspended sentence. To this day he still follows us and I will always be looking over my shoulder and my kids never feel safe anymore.
Jackie, UK

I hope that Saudi women will come out in sufficient numbers supporting Rania. If they do, they can capitalize on this opportunity to make an impact upon Saudi Arabia's discourse on women's rights. If they don't capitalize on this moment in the media limelight, then they will have missed an opportunity. MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD!
Dayla, Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA

Rania is not a special case. Far too many women across the world suffer from domestic abuse. But Rania is unique in that her position allows her to speak out - and to be heard! We can only hope her disclosures will help highlight this issue worldwide.
Suzanne , Peebles, Scotland

Just seems strange to me that the media have been so focused on one case of domestic violence (as terrible as it is) just because it is in Saudi Arabia. The problem of domestic violence in the UK is far worse. In fact it has been shown that reports of domestic violence increase when England loses a football match. How sad is that.
Adam, UK

It is a cycle of violence and intimidation
Anon
Domestic abuse is something you simply cannot comprehend unless you have been there and seen it first hand. It is a cycle of violence and intimidation that leaves the victim feeling trapped and worthless. It sounds easy to speak out or ask for help, but it's very hard indeed. Its not just the women that suffer, children often witness this too, and in some cases even men.
Anon

Some of the statistics in the US says that over 70% of married women in the US have suffered some sort of roughness by their husbands at least once in their marriage life. The point is this, this thing happens all over the world, why is it news worthy for her? What is her special and unique case?
Husam Akoud, Washington, DC

It's shocking and very saddening to see that kind of violence carried out by someone who claims to love you, I'm very glad she had the courage to stand up and speak out. Tunde your comments are shocking to think that anything could justify or excuse the violence against her or anyone for that matter.
Raven, Nigeria, London

We must stand up to this for the sake of our children and future generations
Sarah, Portsmouth, UK
Well done for having the courage to speak out. I myself have suffered domestic violence, not nearly as severe as yours and we must stand up to this for the sake of our children and future generations.
Sarah, Portsmouth, UK

Tunde: Do you really think it matters what they were arguing about? No-one deserves to be beaten, no matter what the argument. Well done for speaking out, Rania. Good luck with the court case.
Lou, Worcester

I am so proud of Rania for doing this, it must of been so hard for her to come to the decision to make this public. I hope she gets the justice she deserves. I would also just like to point out that it is not only women who are abused; men are often abused by their spouses. I have a friend who lives in fear of his wife but wont leave because of his children.
Stepohanie, Fife, Scotland

The previous comments fail to highlight sufficiently the second issue in this case. Obviously, the primary issue is domestic violence, which we agree exists worldwide. However, as pointed out by Marshani, in Islamic countries women are not treated equally. Historically, this was/is also true of many Christian and other faith countries, many of which have now been forced to mend their ways through democratic processes. Whilst Saudi Arabia exists as a non-democratic absolute monarchy with an appalling human rights record the chances of reducing violence against women is very limited.
Mike, Milan, Italy

Behaviour of this nature exist all over the globe
Ibrahim Omer, Markham , Canada
Courageous Rania. I live in Saudi Arabia and I know how things can be ugly over there for women and also other minorities. Good luck. For those who use this opportunity to attack Islam I say "This is not Islamic behaviour". Behaviour of this nature exist all over the globe including the so called civilized western societies.
Ibrahim Omer, Markham , Canada

I Strongly feel the pain which Rania has gone through and wish her well. Fights between husband and wife are not uncommon all around the world, but this is too much. It is a good thing that she lives in Saudi Arabia, where justice is well served. I don't agree with J. Adrian Lunn about his doubts about the Saudi justice system. It is one of the best in the world, and I know it because I live here. I wish Rania the best of luck, and hope to see her back on TV.
Khalid Khan, Dammam, Saudi Arabia

I hope Saudi Arabia becomes a pleasanter country to live in
Arwa , Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Rania gives me hope. She makes me proud of knowing that there are those who dare to speak in public in a country where public image is everything. I hope Saudi Arabia becomes a pleasanter country to live in.
Arwa , Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

That a man could inflict such injury on a woman sickens me. But what is more galling is that most men from that part of the world believe they have the right to beat their spouses. Frankly, I find Tunde's comment (from Lagos, Nigeria) revolting. Irrespective of what she did, she does not deserve to be treated in that manner.
Abolade St John, Ile-Ife, Nigeria

Rania's decision was both courageous and correct. As long as violence against women remains hidden in such a closed off society as Saudi Arabia women will continue to suffer at the hands of their so called loved ones. Having a successful woman press charges against her own husband is a step in the right direction. What is even more heartening is the mere fact the Saudi press allowed this to be publicized.
Cleo, New York, USA

Men all over the world often do not have to fear punishment for this kind of attack
Lorraine, Detroit, Michiga USA
I think it was courageous of Rania to publicize her picture in the paper. However I am sure he (her husband) will just get a slap on the hand. Men all over the world often do not have to fear punishment for this kind of attack, especially in Middle Eastern and African countries. Even in the European and North America they do not get the punishment they deserve. A man cannot call himself a man if he beats a woman. This is a world-wide problem and I am anxious to see what others think. I am pleased they you have offered this subject for reader response.
Lorraine, Detroit, Michiga USA

A very courageous decision of Rania's to go public with the domestic violence she suffered and I hope that the published images are suitably shocking to people in both East and West that this kind of violence against women is taken more seriously as a consequence. Even in the West laws still need to change to make sure that perpetrators stop getting away with it.
Maria Allen, Rome, Italy.

A country that has forgotten the value of their mothers and daughters
Kirk Mason, Seattle, USA
As an abuse survivor, it is easy to understand why someone would be quiet and hope for change. It takes a profound amount of courage and strength to admit there is even a problem. My deepest respect and prayers go to Ms. Baz for making the choice to be public about her life in Saudi - a country that has forgotten the value of their mothers and daughters.
Kirk Mason, Seattle, USA

I am in full agreement for Rania's decision to have images of her injuries released to the public. Her action will definitely encourage women to act against domestic violence. I wish her all the best in the future. What a courageous woman. Thank you
Cassie, Finland

I think she is foolish to have faith in the Saudi justice system.
J. Adrian Lunn

My mother died because her second husband would abuse her physically. I found out about her abuse and injuries from others after her death. She kept it to herself and her own world of abuse. Big time applause for Rania's decision to speak out about it! She can make a difference!!!
Ania, Boston, USA

I applaud her for setting an example
Jim, Sweden
About time this was brought to the public forefront! Women globally suffer outrageous treatment at the hands of selfish men who cannot control their fists. So instead they try to control society and the law into suppressing and subjugating the victims of their crimes. I hope this is a watershed and I applaud her for setting an example.
Jim, Sweden

Rania moved me not only because she spoke out but because she took an action in society where it is extremely difficult for women suffering from domestic violence to go public. I believe women in Saudi have been waiting for someone like Rania to prove that there is a possibility for them to stand up and fight for the basic human right. I don't want Rania to go behind the scenes even if her face does not recover more than 70%. For all women around the world, I hope Rania can regain confidence to remain as a front line TV presenter whatever her face looks like after the operation and that the media accepts her as she is.
Marie Otchi, Zagreb, Croatia

I strongly support Raina all the way. She is very brave and courageous. She has done the right thing, especially because these pictures show how men can cause such damage. Being a man, I really feel disgusted at the fact that these men can be so heartless and cruel. I admire Raina's courage.
Zeeshan Mirza, Lahore, Pakistan

We should hear the other side of the story
Tunde, Lagos, Nigeria
Well it is unfortunate but Rania al-Baz has not told us, the public, what really went wrong between her and her husband. It is only an insane person who can do such to a fellow human. We should hear the other side of the story so that we don't judge them without all the evidence.
Tunde, Lagos, Nigeria

Amen to your great courage. Although, the first time he got violent- you should have separated from him with the help of your family.
Gracie, Vancouver, British Columbia

I was deeply touched by this story. I feel there is no honour in living a lie. It is the Islamic right of the victim to speak up. The blessed messenger, Muhammad (PBUH) would approve of justice being served.
Sadia Khan, USA

It is very brave of her to publish her story in newspapers. Of course domestic violence against women, who are considered the inferior sex in Islamic countries and sometimes are believed to be a part of men's properties, is quite usual. However such courageous disclosures will help publicize laws to reduce the cases of such brutal felonies.
Farsiani, Mashhad-Iran




SEE ALSO
Saudi presenter shows beaten face
16 Apr 04 |  Middle East
'Wife-beating' Saudi surrenders
21 Apr 04 |  Middle East
Saudi Arabia's veil challenge
21 Jan 04 |  Middle East
Unveiled women anger Saudi cleric
21 Jan 04 |  Middle East

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific