Saudi activist Asmaa Al-Subaie forcibly disappeared for nearly 1,000 days

Asmaa Al-Subaie, a detained Saudi activist, has been in custody for 940 days without an official charge or a clear legal basis as of right now. Her crime is well known—she simply refused to give up her right to free speech and her demand for a democratic nation where everyone, especially women, is granted their most fundamental rights.

Al-Subaie was arrested in June 2021, a dark year for freedom of opinion and expression in the Kingdom, during which the Saudi authorities launched a large-scale arrest campaign against dozens of young social media activists over freedom of expression charges, including Abdul Rahman Al Sheikh, Rina Abdel Aziz, Lina Al-Sharif, Yasmine Al-Ghafili, and Najwa Al-Hamid.

Asma was detained for over a year without being charged. She was denied family or lawyer visits. Furthermore, the authorities refused to provide Asma’s family with any information regarding her detention conditions.

Asmaa Al-Subaie later appeared from inside Al-Ha’ir prison, promoting the image of the Saudi regime, praising its policies. But she disappeared again.

The aforementioned events took place in June 2022, when Saudi official and private media outlets celebrated the prisoner festival known as “Time Management Software Suites.” This festival aimed to promote the regime’s efforts to improve its image and soften the harsh detention conditions in Saudi prisons.

Men’s and women’s tours of the prison wings and other activities were featured in the video reports that were aired from within the jails. The prisoners and their families took part in a number of other activities during the festival. Additionally, female “political” detainees who had been subjected to enforced disappearance for a while took part in singing performances.

Under the watchful eye of the infamous State Security Service, the festival featured programming specifically designed for prisoners in Al-Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh and Al-Tarfiyya Prison in Al-Qassim. It was billed as an updated version of earlier festivals held in the prisons of Abha, Dammam, and Dhahban in Jeddah.

Quite simply, the festival was an overt attempt to conceal the scandals and crimes against dissidents and prisoners of conscience that the regime had committed inside those prisons, targeting both men and women. Instead of improving its reputation by enacting genuine reforms and radical changes that start with the release of political prisoners, the Saudi regime forced political detainees to participate in these activities and make statements confirming that their conditions of detention are ideal, even better than the reality outside of prisons.

This low-cost tactic used by the regime is inexplicable, save for the fact that political prisoners in the Kingdom endure systematic campaigns of humiliation and endure unmatched oppression while being made to celebrate their suffering, clean their cells, and offer prayers to their executioners.

Remarkably, Asmaa Al-Subaie was seen during this festival for the first time since her arrest. This was also the last time she was seen, as the authorities subjected her to another enforced disappearance. Her family has not yet received official information regarding the reasons, circumstances, or location of her detention.

In addition to demanding that the fate of every person who has been forcibly disappeared in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia be cleared, Together for Justice also calls on the international community to take decisive action to put an end to the practice of torture, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearances. It also demands that those who commit these crimes be held accountable under local or international law.

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