Saudi Arabia arrests 2 more female activists as part of crackdown on dissent
Story Code : 730701
The two women are accused of expressing support for other jailed female activists and voicing anger at Saudi Arabia’s decision to imprison them.
The developments came as the United Nations has accused Riyadh of misusing its anti-terror law to crush peaceful dissent, denying freedom of expression, imprisoning critics and allegedly subjecting some of them to torture.
The UN has urged Saudi authorities to bring the law in line with international norms and halt what it called "barbaric and public executions."
According to the UN report by Ben Emmerson, who visited the kingdom last year as UN special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, said the definition of terrorism in laws enacted in 2014 was “objectionably broad”.
International human rights groups have long urged the kingdom to improve its treatment of human rights advocates and end the death penalty.
In early June, the European Parliament issued a resolution calling for their unconditional release and that of all human rights defenders. It also called for a more vocal European response.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities’ endless harassment of women’s rights activists is entirely unjustifiable, and the world must not remain silent on the repression of human rights defenders in the country”, said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.
Amnesty International has also called on the “international community and allies of Saudi Arabia” to exert pressure on Riyadh to immediately and unconditionally release women’s rights defenders currently detained in the Arab kingdom.
Over the past few weeks, a number of prominent women’s rights activists, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Youssef, were arrested and still remained in detention centers without charge and incommunicado with no access to their families or lawyers.
Most of the detainees are prominent figures, who enjoy considerable respect among the Saudi grassroots, including university professors and a psychotherapist.
Saudi authorities have so far labeled the detainees “traitors”, infuriating the country’s rights activists who fear additional arrests amid much-hyped reports of reforms led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
This is while reforms have been accompanied by heavy-handed crackdown on dissent against Saudi critics, ranging from clerics to some of the very female activists who campaigned for years to end the ban.
During the past few weeks, Saudi authorities have arrested seven women and four men who were outspoken women’s rights defenders in the peninsular country, many of whom had campaigned against the long-standing ban on women drivers in Saudi Arabia.
The ban is scheduled to be removed this month, with licenses being issued from 24 June, making Saudi Arabia the last country in the world to permit women to obtain driving licenses.
In September last year, Riyadh removed the driving ban on women as part of reforms to undo the damage the kingdom has suffered for decades of human rights violations both inside and outside of Saudi Arabia.
The move came shortly after women were also permitted access into a sports stadium, for the first time, to watch a concert. Saudi women had also been banned from voting until 2015, when they were allowed to vote in local elections.