Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Saudi Vice, episode 14: Death is preferable to immorality

Yesterday, Saudi Arabia was host to another exciting, high speed car chase, courtesy of our heroes, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, otherwise known as the Muttawa.

Apparently two young couples had the audacity to travel in a car. It is unclear why exactly this is "haram" under shari'a law, but Allah knows best, and so do the Muttawa.

So our heroes, naturally, went in full pursuit with their signature white Toyota SUV:
Eyewitnesses said that they saw a commission SUV with two agents and a security officer inside following a white Ford until it crashed into a small farm with the four people inside. As the Ford was still absorbing the force of impact, the Commission’s agents fled the scene, they added.

An eyewitness said after the car had crashed into the farm, he waved at the Commission’s agents to stop but they ignored him, prompting him to report the incident and the license plate number of the SUV to the police. Another eyewitness confirmed that he saw the commission SUV at the scene of the crash as it happened.

A police source said that the eyewitnesses reported seeing the white Toyota SUV at the scene right after the crash and provided its license plate number.

Chief of Madina Traffic Department Col. Siraj Kamal said that early information and eyewitnesses’ accounts suggest that the commission SUV was in hot pursuit of the victims’ car. If the information and reports are confirmed, the case will be referred to authorities concerned, he said.

Firefighters extracted three bodies from the wreckage of the vehicle, said Madina Civil Defense spokesman Col. Mansour Al-Juhani.

The driver, 30, died of internal bleeding one hour later in hospital, said director of King Fahd Hospital in Madina Mutwakil Hajaj.

The four were not identified.
To be fair, the Muttawa deny any involvement despite the eyewitnesses. They also denied any involvement last month when eyewitnesses saw them chase another couple to their deaths.

Our heroes' body count has really been piling up in the past year, as the Saudi Gazette helpfully enumerates:
The Commission’s agents have been recently accused of involvement in many death cases.

Last week, a 29-year-old man jumped from the third-floor window of an apartment to his death while allegedly trying to avoid arrest by the Commission in Adama District, Dammam.

Earlier in March, a young man and a woman allegedly fleeing from agents of the Commission were killed when their speeding car smashed head-on into a truck on the Madina-Tabuk Road. Investigations in the above two cases are still under way.

In May 2007, the Commission’s agents in Riyadh were involved in a murder case during a forced entry into a house and the beating to death of Salman Al-Huraisi, a citizen, who allegedly possessed and sold alcohol. In June 2007, in Tabuk, the Commission’s agents spotted a 50-year-old family driver, Ahmed Al-Bulawi, driving with a woman in his car. They stopped the car, arrested the two and took the man to one of the Commission’s interrogation centers, where he died. The court ruled that the Commission’s agents were innocent in both death cases filed against it.
So the Muttawa death count is now at 9 in the past 10 months. Not bad, because, to the Commission, extremism in the defense of Sharia is no vice.