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Shocking incident of abuse I hope I'll never see again
By Sameera Aziz
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 28 - 12 - 2009

I have written hundreds of articles but have never felt such awkwardness like I do now while writing this piece. Though this issue is not so unfamiliar in Saudi Arabia or any other society of the world, yet the specific incident that provoked me to write bewilders me as to how I should describe such a shameful thing in order to convey my message.
However, I feel I should expose what I saw as our silence has always provoked the recurrence of such incidents. When we never have the courage to tell, we never think of a solution for safeguarding the society against crime. This is the specific dilemma of our society: the grim incidents are untold and hence, remain incurable.
The issue is of ‘child abuse', which I witnessed but sadly could not do anything about it except get embarrassed by mocking people. I was at KFC near the bicycle square at ‘Sitteen road' in Jeddah. A nine or 10-year-old jolly little expatriate girl came to me selling small towels as I entered the restaurant.
While seated inside, I could not take her pretty and innocent face off my mind so I thought I would buy her a kids' meal. I went out looking for her. She was at a distance standing near a black Hummer. I thought she was negotiating the price of a towel with someone, but to my surprise, I saw two hands from the driver's seat holding the girl and taking her inside the car. I immediately thought there was something wrong there. Unconsciously, the food fell down from my hands and I ran towards the car. But, suddenly I heard few voices in Arabic shouting: “Look, look, shame, shame, she is running…ha ha ha!”
For a moment I stopped and felt embarrassed to see people in two cars, one belonging to a family and the other filled with young people, laughing. Didn't they see what was happening there?
However, I still ran to the Hummer and knocked on the car's window sharply. The boy inside got nervous for a moment. Before he could move to lock the door, I opened it. “What is happening here?” I shouted. “Mind your own business!” he replied.
He seemed very wicked. I grabbed the girl and placed my hand on his driving wheel. “Come out now,” I said angrily. He yelled at me threatening to hit and drive. “Just pray that you would not be hurt the same way when you have daughters in the future. As you sow, so shall you reap,” I called back.
Hearing this, his glared back and started his car. I quickly moved back but the open door hit my elbow as the car sped away. He swore in the worst possible manner before disappearing.
I deliberately reminded him of his daughters hoping it will be a positive reminder and he will repent what he has done.
“What were you doing inside?” I asked the girl in a soft tone. She said very casually that she was “just playing because he promised he would buy the towels.”
“Oh my God,” I said. “Where do you live? I want to meet your mother.” She didn't correctly answer me and just ran away.
With embarrassment, a painful elbow, an aching heart and great anger, I stepped towards my car but heard the same voices again: “Look, she has come back. She is silly, unashamed, mad….”
I looked at them and found the two cars still there. Sadly, it was not only the young guys who were teasing me, but also family members in the other car who were sarcastically looking at me. I paid no attention to them because people with a dead conscience are worse than dead bodies. Dead bodies do not move because they are not alive, but these people have life, yet do not move – until the garbage falls on their own heads.
Years ago when I was a reporter, I covered a shocking and distressing incident of a male teacher who taught Qur'an to more than 25 children at a residence in Jeddah. The home owner's children also studied with other children.
One mother on finding some signs of abuse on her four-year-old child tried to ask the child the reason, but the child was not able to clearly describe what had happened as she was very young to understand anything. By secretly watching, the mother caught the teacher who escaped from the place immediately. In another incident, a salesman at a grocery store was beaten up by people after being held responsible for child abuse by bribing the kids with sweets.
All this shows how important the role of parents is in protecting children. I know women who lecture on having many kids, yet their children are always outside the home. They pay no attention to the children.
Having a focus on children and giving them quality time, as well as educating them that no one has the right to touch them are important characteristics of parenting. We should teach them what they are supposed to do if someone tries to touch them. Parents, especially mothers, as well as children studying in schools should constantly be exposed to special awareness classes.
Children are seen selling on roads and outside malls everywhere. They too need care and protection. The solution is not in stopping them from earning money, but saving them from poverty, illiteracy and abuse.
I know these child vendors are illegal residents, but they do not deserve to be left unprotected just because they don't have iqamas. Authorities should pay attention to this issue and bring about practical solutions.
Children found working should be sent to charity schools that regularly pay them stipends besides educating them. This will solve their financial troubles as well as educate them for a better future.

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