When a female Saudi journalist went to see Radia who had been raped by an Egyptian man for four years before he was beheaded this week, the first thing the Afghan child said was “what do you want…I’m now scared of women.”
Radia was snatched by the Egyptian man’s sister while working with her mother at a clothes shop in the western town of Madina nearly four years ago. She was nearly eight years old when she was locked up in a small room, raped and systematically tortured before she was set free by police. Her rapist had always told her that he owns her and wants her to get pregnant quickly.
“I have been told you are a journalist…so tell me what you want,” Radia told the Saudi journalist in Egyptian accent after forgetting most of her mother language.
Even when she was freed and reunited with her parents, she jumped on them and shouted in Egyptian dialect “ummi…abuya..” (dad, mother).
“We noticed that Radia kept sticking to her mother, who told us she even sleeps sticking to her….when she talked to her father, she needed an interpreter…she did not understand what he was saying to her…her only reaction was that she kept throwing herself at his feet and weeps,” Almadina newspaper said.
Radia’s long ordeal had already triggered media criticism of Saudi police for their failure to save her when news of her abduction first surfaced four years ago.
Her rapist Mohammed bin Nafei and his sister Jamalat were beheaded this week for what they had done to the girl, who is now nearly 12 years old, and to his two sons who died because of mistreatment and negligence. Despite their execution, the incident is still sending shock waves through the Gulf Kingdom given the savagery of the man and his sister and the way Radia was kidnapped—reminiscent of the two famous Egyptian women who had lured in many other girls and women in that Arab country to steal and kill them. The two, known as Raya and Sakina, are believed to have been executed after causing horror through the most populated Arab nation and triggering many TV films about them.
“He was the same as a devil,” Radia said, describing her beheaded rapist. “He never had soap or perfume on his body saying this is haram (prohibited)….I was not allowed to change my clothes for all those years.”
Radia was helping her mother in her little clothes shop in the western Saudi town of Madina when Mohammed’s sister, Jamalat, came in.
After buying some stuff, Jamalat pretended that she did not have enough money and asked the woman to send her daughter with her so she would give her the rest of the money. Radia went with Jamalat, who later phoned her brother.
Mohammed, who has three wives, then asked Radia to come into his house to get the money. Trusting him and his sister, she went in and told them she was in a hurry to go back to her mother. Instead of giving her money, they locked her up in a small room, where her three-year ordeal started.
“He never cared for his sons and this caused the death of two…he put them in bag and left it on the roof of his house…when the time came to leave Saudi Arabia, he just threw the bag away,” Radia said.
“He was very cruel to me…his sister also tortured me but his wives—an Egyptian and a Nigerian, treated me nicely….while I was there, Jamalat told me many times not to think about my family on the grounds they fled to Afghanistan after my mother killed a Municipality inspector…she told me that I could be beheaded if I was captured by the police.”
Radia said police finally seized Mohammed and his sister after he planned to travel back to Egypt on forged documents, adding that he also forged a passport for her in the name of Dua Ibrahim.
While in detention, Mohammed’s two wives tried to help Radia escape but failed as the key was always with Mohammed or his sister. Radia described Jamalat as a “brutal and savage woman” who would beat her up every time she cries and asks them to take her back to her family.
“They were beating me and his wives with a power cable…he had also burned my hands and back because I disobeyed him…he told me that if I screamed to the neighbours, he would say that he was beating his wife…he had never bought anything for me and I spent all that time in the same clothes,” she said.
“He was not allowing any perfume in the house and when I fell ill, he refused to take me to the hospital, saying hospitals are also haram…when I became an adult a month before I was freed, I didn’t know what that means…..I tasted the bitterness of being away from may family and had always prayed to God the Almighty to let me see them only once before I die.”
Newspapers in Saudi Arabia quoted Mohammed’s neighbours as saying he was an “introvert” who had never mingled with people in the area. They said they were shocked by the news as they had not expected him to commit that crime.
“He was a very introvert man, who I had seen only once every five or six months at the mosque, which is only metres away from his house,” said mohammed Al Hajouri, who lives in the same building.
“He had been always lonely and isolated,” said another neighbour, Ibrahim Hajoori. “No one had known him or where he works…...we all had thought he was a pious man with good conduct.”
Commenting on the crime, a well-known Saudi columnist branded Mohammed and his sister as “devils” and said they have “stepped with their dirty feet on human dignity and children’s rights.” He also criticized police for failing to uncover that crime for four years.
“This incident raises legitimate questions on the role of the security organs which arrested the criminals only after four years despite the proximity between the criminal’s house and that of the victim,” said Khalid Al Zaydi of Al Madina daily.
“It also raises questions on the role of area mayors in communicating with the residents of their areas…what happened to landlords so they don’t even know who live in their buildings and what happened to the neighbhours who seem to have lost all sorts of contacts between them…..finally, we all are accomplices in murdering the childhood inside Radia….we allowed the resurgence of Raya and Sakina in Saudi Arabia.”