Saudi Arabia: two more women's rights activists arrested

Samar Badawi, with her daughter Joud. Her brother Raif is jailed, as is her husband, the lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair © Private

Samar Badawi, sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, and Nassima al-Sada detained earlier this week

‘This unprecedented level of persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia is a disturbing sign that the crackdown is far from over’ - Lynn Maalouf

The arrest of two more prominent women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia is further proof that a crackdown against activists in the country is ongoing and shows no sign of relenting, Amnesty International said today.

Samar Badawi, sister of the jailed blogger Raif Badawi, and Nassima al-Sada were detained earlier this week. They have both previously been targeted, harassed, and placed under travel bans for their human rights activism. 

Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, said: 

“These brave women represented the last vestiges of the human rights community in the country, and now they too have been detained. 

“This unprecedented level of persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia is a disturbing sign that the crackdown is far from over.

“Despite the Saudi authorities’ repeated attempts to project the image of a country implementing sweeping reforms to ‘modernise’ the kingdom, the grim reality is of continuing arrests of activists for their peaceful human rights work.

“The international community must push the Saudi Arabian authorities to end this draconian crackdown and targeted repression of human rights activists in the country.”

Repeatedly targeted

Samar Badawi has been repeatedly targeted and interrogated by the Saudi Arabian authorities for her human rights activism. In 2014, she was subjected to a travel ban and was also arrested in 2016 for her human rights work. She is the sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, who in 2014 was sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website for public debate.

Nassima al-Sada has campaigned for civil and political rights, women’s rights and the rights of the Shi’a minority in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province for many years. She stood in municipal elections in 2015, but was banned from participating. She has also campaigned for the right of women to drive and for the end of the repressive male guardianship system. She was also subject to a travel ban prior to her detention.

Amal al-Harbi was also detained earlier this week. She is the wife of Fawzan al-Harbi, a detained human rights defender and founding member of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association. The reason for her arrest remains unknown.

Women rights defenders arrested in May

Since May, a number of prominent women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia - including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef - have been detained for their peaceful human rights work. Arrests began on 18 May, a month before the lifting of the country’s notorious ban on women driving

Many of those arrested have been detained without charge, and may face trial before the country’s counter-terrorism court and could be jailed for up to 20 years. Others recently detained include women’s rights defenders Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani, and activists who have previously been persecuted for their human rights work - such as Mohammed al-Bajadi and Khalid al-Omeir. 
 

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