Today, women around the world are celebrating the anniversary of International Women’s Day, yet Saudi women are not celebrating. Despite the outrage and condemnation by the United Nations and members of the Human Rights Council, who demanded an end to Saudi Arabia‘s impunity against the waves of arrests of women who had been held behind bars for years, and while civil society leaders demand the release of human rights defenders; repressive regimes need to release defenders who are at great risk during the pandemic.
Loujain Al-Hathloul, who was recently released, may be the most prominent women’s rights defender who was arrested in May 2018. Al-Hathloul was accused of “attempting to destabilize the country” and spent nearly two years in prison, during which she was subjected to horrific torture at the hands of the Saudi authorities while being denied due process and due diligence, including the right to a fair trial.
On the International Women’s Day, which the United Nations celebrates these days, the “Free Saudi Female Activists” coalition commemorated the 3rd year of the Saudi government’s arrest of many activists for defying the government’s ban on women driving cars and dismantling the male guardianship system.
The coalition consisting of a number of human rights defenders to advocate for the release of women’s rights activists from prison, confirmed in a statement that women rights defenders have been imprisoned since May 2018, and have been subjected to multiple human rights violations under the Saudi authority, including electric shocks and sexual assaults.
The statement of the coalition called for the release of Saudi women activists: “defenders of Saudi women’s rights have suffered from horrific human rights violations at the hands of the Saudi government, and our first priority is to ensure their immediate and unconditional release,”. “The international community and the business sector must also hold the Saudi government accountable for these violations in order to advance practical solutions to advance women’s rights. Our newly issued advocacy document provides recommendations for both to ensure accountability.”
Recently, the prominent Saudi human rights defender, Dr. Abdullah Al-Hamid, died after suffering a stroke in a Saudi prison. Dr. Al-Hamid, a political reformer and co-founder of the Saudi Association for Civil and Political Rights, was arrested in March 2013 on charges related to his peaceful political and human rights activities. Saudi human rights activists say he was denied adequate medical care before his death.
The Charge: Relatives!
In the same context, the “Saudi Female Detainees” account on twitter confirmed the presence of female detainees in the prisons of the House of Saud, who have been detained on charges of family ties to political detainees. The account published a list of retaliatory arrests of activists who were arrested simply for being relatives of opponents or activists.
It stated that “Sohud Al-Sharif” is detained solely because she is the daughter of the detained princess “Basma bint Saud” and “Aida Al-Ghamdi” simply for being the mother of the activist “Abdullah Al-Ghamdi”. It also pointed out that “Samah Al-Nafiei” is detained for being the daughter of the dissident “Mansur Al-Nafii” and “Khadija Al-Harbi” for being the wife of the writer “Thamar Al-Marzouki”.
Princess “Basma”, 56, businesswoman and granddaughter of the founder of the Saudi Kingdom, “Abdulaziz Al Saud”, was arrested from her home in Jeddah in March 2019, along with her daughter, “Suhud Al-Sharif”, 28. The princess was one of the advocates for strengthening the status of women in Saudi Arabia and enhancing their position in business, however, a close source to her believes that her demands for her father’s inheritance may have been among the reasons for her arrest.
In 2018, “Abdullah Al-Ghamdi”, a London-based activist, revealed that Saudi security forces had arrested his elderly mother and two brothers in an attempt to blackmail and pressure him.
Earlier in July last year, the United Nations called for international pressure on Saudi Arabia to release women activists.
A British website has documented more than 145 human rights violations of the Saudi regime against women since the rule of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017, which belies repeated claims of reforms. The “Middle East Monitor” website said that the daughter of US President Donald Trump praised two of America’s main allies in the Middle East, but remained silent about the plight of a number of detained activists and their torture because of their opposition to the Gulf monarchies.
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