Saudi Arabia’s human rights record is under scrutiny again after two female citizens were sentenced to 20 lashes having been found guilty of using bad language while arguing with each other over WhatsApp.
The pair were also jailed for 10 days after a criminal court in Jeddah said they had used ‘impermissible expressions’ in their messages.
And they have been warned that if they are caught using offensive language again their next punishment will be more severe.
The case came to court this week after one of the young women was accused of using ‘abusive expressions’ during her WhatsApp conversation with her friend. It is not clear how her words initially came to light or who reported this ‘crime’ to the police.
According to Arabic newspaper Al Watan, the court asked the woman to produce her phone so that judges could examine the apparently offensive messages.
At this point, the defendant claimed that her friend had started an argument between them which was conducted electronically.
She then showed a message sent to her by her friend two months previously.
Having examined the messages, the court decided that both women were equally guilty and handed down the extraordinary punishment.
Saudi Arabia has some of the strictest laws for women in the world. They include a ban on women driving, reading uncensored fashion magazines, or swimming in public pools.
Earlier this year, the country’s top clerical body banned the Pokemon Go app saying it was too similar to gambling.
It also said the game carried symbols of ‘deviant’ religions and organisations, such as ‘international Zionism’, Christian crosses and symbols from Japan’s native Shinto religion.