Free Nagla Wafa

Egyptian rights organisations are requesting an investigation and assistance in the case of Egyptian Nagla Wafa who is incarcerated in Saudi Arabia serving a sentence of 5 years and 500 lashes to be carried on her.

By: Alexandra Kinias

Saudi Arabia, the land that had given birth to Wahabism, the rigorous creed of Islam, had evolved over the last century to become one the harshest, inhuman society in the world. Behind the dunes of the Arabian Desert, life had been confined for decades, but with the discovery of oil and with the need for development, this closed nomadic community invited outsiders to live and work.

In a society that is rated by human rights groups as hostile towards its own citizens, expatriates have no choice but to live with stolen rights and freedoms in exchange for the lucrative salaries that are offered to them. Women have to follow the dress code of the natives and cover up in the niqab, no churches, temples or any other places of worship are allowed to be built for non-Muslims, and everyone has to follow the laws of segregation in public.

Egyptian Nagla Wafa was among those who left her homeland seeking a job that would bring better income to secure a comfortable life for her family and good education for her sons. But in a land where adulteress are stoned to death, witchcrafts are beheaded, thieves are mutilated, and outlaws are flogged, the dreams of the wedding planner for a better life ended in a nightmarish experience.

According to an announcement of the Center for Egyptian Legal Women Assistance (CEWLA), that due to a dispute in a business partnership with one of the princesses of the royal family, Wafa was arrested and sentenced to 5 years in jail and 500 lashes on her body. CEWLA, who is seeking the intervention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to release Wafa, announced that follow to her arrest on September 9, 2009, Wafa’s possessions and documents in Saudi Arabia were confiscated.

Because of the influence of her opponent, Wafa was badly treated by the investigator and was denied the right for legal assistance. One June 14, 2001, after nine months in custody, Wafa was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment and 500 lashes on her body. Her appeal was denied.

In an interview with Al Ahram newspaper, Yehia Wafa tells the story of his daughter whom he had seen once in the last three years.

According to her father, Wafa’s story started seven years ago when the mother-of-two travelled to Riyadh with her then husband to launch a flourishing career as a wedding planner and flower arrangement expert. Her clients included Saudi elites and members of the royal family. As her business boomed, one of them, a daughter of the king, asked to be her partner.

“Hesitant at first, Nagla later agreed as the princess bought out the shares of my daughter’s other business partner, another Saudi woman,” Wafa’s father told Ahram Online.

Disagreements erupted over managing the business, and while Wafa was in Cairo to attend her brother’s wedding, she was informed that her office in the Saudi capital was raided and that documents and computers were confiscated.

Wafa left to Saudi not anticipating any trouble, but once she was there she was informed that she was banned from leaving the country. Later she was arrested and for a whole month she was unable to communicate with her family the news of her detention.

In fear for their and their daughter’s safety, following threats from the princesses’ lawyer, the family avoided speaking to the media. After three years in incarceration, Wafa is suffering from spinal cord complications as a result of the flogging.

Finally after three years, Wafa’s family was able to hire a lawyer for her. “The Egyptian embassy’s legal advisor has tried more than once to organize power of attorney so that we could get her legal representation but it was almost impossible,” explained Nagla’s father.

As Wafa’s case is attracting public attention, more organizations are requesting an investigation in her case. The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR) issued a statement condemning her detention.
“What this Egyptian citizen has been exposed to violates all international human rights charters,” said EOHR head Hafez Abu-Seida.

Abu-Seida further added that the EOHR has sent a letter of complaint to the United Nations outlining Wafa’s situation as well as promising to launch a campaign calling for her release.

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