Manama: Nine siblings, aged between three months and 18 years, were reportedly tortured by their father over the disappearance of 100 riyals (Dh87) from their home in the Red Sea city of Jeddah.
The father is said to have used a hot iron to punish his children, including his recently born daughter, by burning their legs and feet.
The case was discovered by the high school where the eldest daughter was enrolled as a student.
The school principal noticed she was walking barefoot in the school and wanted to know why.
The student said she could not put on her shoes because of the pain she was suffering from the burns inflicted by her father.
Encouraged by the principal to speak out, the daughter revealed how her father abused her and her siblings and how he had tortured them with a hot iron since Wednesday when he could not find the 100 riyals, local daily Okaz reported on Tuesday.
The torture included the three-month baby, the daughter said.
The principal alerted the Social Protection care home in Jeddah, prompting its specialists to decide to provide psychological and social support for the siblings who were referred to King Fahd Hospital for check-ups.
The investigation launched by the Social Protection discovered that the children’s mother worked at a school for 3,000 riyals a month and did not stand up to her husband for fear of a divorce that would split up the family.
The children’s father is unemployed and receives monthly assistance from the social solidarity programme.
Social Protection officials said that they would provide temporary accommodation for the siblings before they move them to a flat while the procedures to protect them follow their course with the authorities.
The oldest daughter said that she would rather live with her mother and not with her father, accusing him of being violent with her and her brothers and sisters.
Other sisters said that they had suffered physically as well as academically from their father’s brutality, stressing that their grades at school were low.
Salah Al Ghamdi, the head of Social Protection in Jeddah, confirmed the facts and said that they would meet the father to hear his version before the case is referred to the relevant authorities.
Social authorities, doctors and activists have been pushing for years for appropriate formal action to protect children in Saudi Arabia from domestic violence and school bullying.
Their efforts recently received increased attention as the issue of child abuse came under the spotlight following repeated media reports about children subjected to horrific abuse often by members of their immediate families.
A social activist said that Saudi Arabia recorded 206 cases of violence against children.
“According to the figures, 60 per cent of the cases were abuses while 20 per cent were physical violence,” said Maha Al Muneef, the executive director of the National Family Safety Programme (NFSP). “The remaining 20 per cent were negligence and mental and psychological abuses.”
The 2012 case of a man who tortured his daughter to death sparked widespread outrage and triggered a huge debate over the extent of family privacy, a highly valued concept in conservative circles.