Tuesday, 12 November, 2019

Saudi Women's Rights Activists Labeled 'Traitors' as Crackdown Escalates

Saudi reforms on women’s rights just a ‘facade’ to fool outsiders – anti-war campaigner Faisal Al Nasser Reuters
Patty Aguilar | 24 May, 2018, 18:30

Saudi Arabia has reportedly arrested three more women's rights activists in a crackdown launched just weeks before a ban on women driving will be lifted.

Saudi's Press Agency said the activists were arrested for having "dared to violate the country's religious and national pillars through making suspected contacts in support of the activities of foreign circles".

Saudi government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Local state media outlets identified the long-time rights advocates Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, and Eman al-Nafjan, along with Mohammad al-Rabea, an activist, and Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh, a human rights lawyer, among those arrested.

He proceeded to say that the princes and businessmen were lured to the hotel under the pretext of meeting the king. Both women are longtime advocates of women's rights and took part in the first protest in 1990 against the kingdom's ban on women driving, in which almost 50 women were arrested and had their passports confiscated.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, drew worldwide plaudits a year ago when they announced the ban on female drivers would end on June 24. "If it erupts, it will affect not only the situation inside Saudi Arabia or in the Arab region but it will have an effect on you too", he said.

An exiled Saudi prince has called for a coup by his influential uncles to depose King Salman and prevent the current ruling structure led by his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, from doing more damage to the kingdom. One activist said 11 people had been arrested - seven women and four men.

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Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi activist jailed for driving, said on Monday she had received fresh death threats after the arrest of fellow campaigners, which she called an "alarming" tactic aimed at silencing dissent in the conservative kingdom.

Human Rights Watch's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson argued that authorities should instead be "thanking" the women for their activism. Aside from campaigning against the ban on women driving cars in the state, the group is well-known for protesting against other draconian laws and regulations, including the guardianship rules, which dictate that all Saudi women need to seek permission from a male relative before making any life-changing decisions, such as traveling overseas or getting married.

Saudi authorities detained al-Hathloul, 28, in November 2014, as she attempted to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates while live-streaming to bring global attention to the issue. In addition to planning to lift the driving ban, the authorities have allowed women to hold jobs previously closed to them, such as air traffic control, border control, and traffic police. Activists say al-Hathloul was arrested again in June of previous year in connection with her advocacy.

Also detained was Aisha al-Mana, a 70-year-old who was among the first to challenge the driving ban, one of more than 40 women who drove in a convoy in Riyadh in 1990, along with Madeha al-Ajroush, a psychotherapist in her mid-60s, who is also now in detention.

Activists say al-Hathloul was then stopped by authorities in Abu Dhabi, where she was residing, and transferred to Saudi Arabia earlier this year where she's been under a travel ban since March. "It's alarming", she said.

He is also seen as the architect of the three-year-long Saudi-led invasion of neighboring Yemen, which has killed and displaced tens of thousands, and a key proponent of maximum regional and worldwide pressure on regional powerhouse Iran. "They have very supportive families and nice lives but they chose to be the voice for us". Saudi citizens are among the most engaged people on social media in the world, but the new Saudi Arabia does not tolerate these mediums being used for anything more than gratuitous praise of its young leader and his foreign policies, however reckless they may be. "I think it might mask a deeper underlying struggle within Saudi itself".

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