Many of activists that successfully campaigned for women’s right to drive (#Women2Drive) have been arrested in Saudi Arabia, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef. This is despite the fact that the driving ban itself has been lifted.
The crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman is now claiming credit for it – showcasing it as one of his ‘’visionary reformist policies’’, despite arresting the very women who were instrumental in the campaign.
Following their arrest, the Saudi media ran a smear campaign, sharing pictures of the activists with the word ‘’traitor’’ stamped in red across their faces.
These peaceful women’s rights activists may face up to 20 years in jail for their work on women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
The Women Human Rights Defenders have reportedly faced sexual harassment, torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
According to three separate testimonies, they have been repeatedly tortured by electrocution and flogging, leaving some unable to walk or stand properly. One of the activists was made to hang from the ceiling, and according to another testimony, one of the detained women was reportedly subjected to sexual harassment, by interrogators wearing face masks.
Two more prominent women human rights activists – Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada – have also been detained in Saudi Arabia. Samar Badawi has been repeatedly targeted and interrogated by the Saudi Arabian authorities for her human rights activism. In 2014, she was subjected to a travel ban and was also arrested in 2016 for her human rights work. She is the sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website for public debate.
Nassima al-Sada has campaigned for civil and political rights, women’s rights and the rights of the Shi’a minority in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia for many years. She has also campaigned for the right of women to drive and for the end of the repressive male guardianship system.
Others detained recently include women’s rights activists Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani, and activists who have previously been persecuted for their human rights work, such as Mohammed al-Bajadi and Khalid al-Omeir.
Write to the Saudi Arabian embassy and call for the immediate release of all human rights defenders.