A 29-year-old Saudi female activist has been arbitrarily arrested at the hands of the Saudi security services for criticising the Saudi regime’s policies and calling for social reforms on Twitter and Snapchat.
Manahel al-Otaibi, a popular fitness instructor on social media in Saudi Arabia, was detained over her social media posts challenging the country’s male guardianship laws and women’s rights, despite praising some of the regime’s latest reforms in this regard. However, she was arrested after calling for further reforms in November 2022. Until today, she was neither charged nor tried.
Manahil is likely to face charges of sedition, given that many female and male detainees who were arrested for publishing similar tweets promoting women’s rights and challenging male guardianship, were all tried for sedition and destabilizing the country.
Manahil is the latest Saudi victim to be arbitrarily arrested over social media posts challenging Saudi authorities. However, many have faced the same fate for the same reasons, including Salma Al-Shehab, who was sentenced to more than 30 years in prison for retweeting anti-regime activists.
Despite the Saudi regime’s attempts to introduce a set of social reforms granting women freedoms, including allowing women to drive, work, and travel, as part of a broader campaign to boost the Kingdom’s foreign image and improve tourism, the government continues its repressive approach against any Saudi woman calling for further reforms.
For years, the Saudi authorities have always targeted Twitter users as part of a wide campaign that included planting spies within the company to leak confidential user data about anonymous accounts criticizing the authorities.
The Saudi regime’s repressive campaign against Twitter users escalated after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) purchased – indirectly – a large share of Twitter through the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, to be the largest investor after Elon Musk and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and also controlling a $250 million (£200 million) stake in Snapchat.
According to media reports, any press inquiry sent to Twitter to comment on the repressive campaign carried out by the Saudi authorities against Twitter users faces only one response with an inappropriate emoji. The company’s automatic response to press inquiries has appeared since Musk took over the company.