Fury after video of Saudi father torturing son
Video of a Saudi father burning his son with a hot iron bar triggered a wave of condemnation (Image: Shutterstock).
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A video clip of a Saudi father burning his son with a hot iron bar despite his screams and pleas has triggered a wave of condemnation and calls for action.
The father can be clearly seen heating the bar with one hand and holding his child with the other while telling him that he was going to burn him for refusing to eat.
Two other men were later seen holding the child before the father burnt the boy’s foot with the bar. The father and his two companions can be heard giggling as the tortured and frightened son pleads for mercy. The clip was apparently shot in the desert.
“This is an act of torture and a criminal offence against an innocent child,” Hajar Ali Ebrahim Al Ateen, a family counsellor, said. “The four men, including the one who filmed the child’s plight, do not deserve to be fathers. They had no mercy or compassion and should be referred to the competent authorities to face stringent action,” she said, quoted by local daily Okaz.
Garam Allah Al Zahrani, a rights activist, called for the four men to be put on trial.
“What they committed was a horrible crime,” he said.
Several other activists have voiced their shock over the incident and urged the authorities to identify the men and bring them to justice.
Saudi doctors and activists have been pushing for years for appropriate formal action to protect children in Saudi Arabia from domestic violence and bullying at school.
Their efforts recently received increased attention as the issue of child abuse came under the spotlight following repeated media reports about children being subjected to horrific abuse — often by members of their immediate families. The case last year of a man who tortured his daughter to death sparked national outrage.
According to a social activist, Saudi Arabia recorded 206 cases of violence against children in 2012.
“According to the figures, 60 per cent of the cases were abuses while 20 per cent were physical violence,” said Maha Al Muneef, the executive director of the National Family Safety Programme (NFSP). “The remaining 20 per cent were negligence and mental and psychological abuses,” she said last year.
Maha said that physical violence cases were “easiest to report” while sexual violence was “the most difficult to discover.”
“However, psychological violence is the least reported despite the high prevalence of cases,” she added. “We now have an updated database about the cases and statistics are issued every year. The information contributes to drawing up relevant strategies to protect children in the kingdom,” she said.
In 2013, Saudi Arabia announced a breakthrough in the fight against abuse by adopting a system that guaranteed protection and provided assistance, treatment, shelter and health, social and psychological care.
Under the system, anyone who becomes aware of a case of abuse must report it without delay and disciplinary and punitive action will be taken against those who cause it.
All employees, both civilians and those in the military, as well as those in the private sector who become aware of the abuse case — by virtue of their work — must report it to their employers, who in turn must alert the social affairs ministry or the police. The identity of those who report cases of abuse is protected and cannot be revealed without their approval.
By Habib Toumi
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