Saudi Arabia: Update: Seven Saudi women’s rights defenders branded as traitors in a dangerous new wave of arrests

May 21, 2018

Since 15 May 2018, Saudi authorities have detained ten advocates for women’s rights, including leaders and supporters of the #Right2Drive and #IAmMyOwnGuardian campaigns. Seven people of those detained – three women and three men – have been publicly named and branded as traitors, along with a seventh un-named man (see graphic at left above).

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) is particularly concerned that Loujain Al-Hathloul, a well-known women’s rights defender on social media, is currently the only one held incommunicado as of 20 May. Shortly after her return from attending a review session of Saudi Arabia at the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Al-Hathloul was arrested by Emirati authorities in Abu Dhabi and brought by the Saudi authorities to Riyadh in early March 2018 for interrogation. She was released after three days and placed under travel ban until her recent arrest from her home on 15 May. She has had no contact with her family, unlike the other detainees. Al-Hathloul was previously detained on 01 December 2014 for 75 days and again in June 2017, for her advocacy on the women’s driving campaign and abolishing the male guardianship campaign.

Among the others arrested are Dr. Eman Al-Nafjan, assistant professor of linguistics, author and a blogger for the Saudiwoman’s Weblog. She has previously protested the driving ban, including publicly driving in Riyadh in 2013, and was harassed and interrogated. GCHR reported her arrest on 18 May.

It has been revealed that among the others arrested are Aziza Al-Yousef, a retired lecturer and a prominent campaigner for the right to drive and to end the male guardianship system who defied the driving ban in Riyadh in 2013 and was previously harassed and interrogated; and three men supporters of women’s rights campaigns; Dr. Ibrahim Al-Modaimeegh, a Harvard-graduate lawyer who supported women’s rights defenders and other human rights defenders in legal representation; Mohammad Al-Rabea, a writer, and a youth cultural activist, and Abdulazia Al-Meshal, a businessman and philanthropist who was listed as a board member in the application for an NGO to protect women survivors of violence, that is still in progress.


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