Jeddah, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice [CPVPV] announced that it had monitored 65 cases of men blackmailing women with personal photographs. It deemed that the act of reporting this blackmail to the authorities, even if the girl reporting the blackmail had been involved in an illicit relationship, is a sign of repentance and therefore the girl in question does not deserve to be punished.
Director of the CPVPV in Mecca, Ahmed Qasim Al Ghamdi revealed exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat that the number of cases of young men blackmailing women with personal photographs has reached 65 in the city of Mecca alone. He pointed out that this number concerns the number of cases the CPVPV had dealt with according to various information, but that many women had refrained from filing reports.
Al Ghamdi said that the source of “the blackmail is a result of a previous relationship or the exploitation of the blackmailed party by [someone] gaining documents and information. For example some young men gain photos of women by gaining access to their mobile phones, or through mobile phones given to repair shops.”
Al Ghamdi said that the goal of blackmailing women is usually either to extort money or force the victim into prostitution.
He added that it would be unfitting to punish the woman in cases where it cannot be proven that the woman had an affair with the man. As for cases where the woman was involved in an illicit relationship with a man, then this would call for repentance on the woman’s part. However if the woman were to file a report saying that she was being blackmailed, than this would be considered a sign of repentance and therefore the woman would not deserve to be punished.
Al Ghamdi added that punishing women who are involved in such cases would only increase this problem in society, and that it is important to provide a safe channel for these women even if they were at fault, but only on the condition of the reliability of their statement and that there were no ulterior motives behind their actions.
Al Ghamdi stressed that it is up to the CPVPV to do its best to discover the truth, which usually occurs via the gathering of evidence aided by the statements made by the women being blackmailed. He added that the purpose of this is to eliminate this problem [of blackmail] in society, and that the CPVP does not take any action before making sure that the whole issue is not about settling old scores.
Al Ghamdi added that the punishment of the male blackmailer is determined by Islamic Shariaa Law. The size of the offence and the persistence of the offender are also usually taken into consideration with regards to sentencing. Therefore such crimes are assessed on a case by case basis.
Al Ghamdi also revealed that the CPVPV had recently referred a young male to the appropriate security authorities after he had attempted to blackmail a young woman who had given him 37 personal photographs. He attempted to blackmail her into paying him ten thousand Saudi riyals [SR] in return for handing back all of the photographs, and not posting them on the internet.
The female victim led her blackmailer on, and agreed to meet him in front of a famous Jeddah restaurant in order to deliver the money and receive the personal photographs. However this operation was carried out under the watchful eye of the CPVPV, who managed to recover a number of sent messages on the blackmailer’s phone that proved he had attempted to blackmail a number of other girls.
The Director of the CPVPV in Jeddah, Ali Bin Mohamed Al Hayan, revealed that members of the CPVPV, by virtue of the authority vested in them, are more than ready to deal with such cases in the event of receiving a complaint at any CPVPV center. He added that the CPVPV are ready to carry out all necessary procedures in compliance with Islamic Shariaa regulations, and in strict confidence to preserve Muslims’ honor and morality.
A member of the CPVPV who spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity revealed that the CPVPV are concerned with the combating of crimes, whether or not the reports are filed by women attempting to get back at somebody. This is based on the grounds that the primary role of the CPVPV must be the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.
He added that attempts to use the CPVPV as an instrument to settle scores is an issue that is currently under close examination by members of the CPVPV, particularly after the issuance of a Royal Decree 8 months ago calling for the necessity of examining the issue of blackmail at a ministerial level, and which revealed that blackmail is not a new phenomenon [in Saudi society], but rather that is has only now begun to surface.