Human Rights Watch announced that Riyadh has arrested two prominent women's rights activists in an "unprecedented" crackdown on opposition.
News ID: 71536
Publish Date: 02August 2018 - 14:06
TEHRAN (Defapress)-HRW said in a statement on Wednesday that the Saudi authorities arrested award-winning gender rights activist Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah earlier this week.
The rights group added that they are “the latest victims of an unprecedented government crackdown on the women’s rights movement that began on May 15, 2018 and has resulted in the arrest of more than a dozen activists".
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said the arrests "signal that the Saudi authorities see any peaceful dissent, whether past or present, as a threat to their autocratic rule".
"Saudi authorities have targeted and harassed Badawi for years. In addition to her advocacy for women’s equality, she has campaigned energetically for both her former husband and her brother to be released from prison," the statement noted.
Sadah has campaigned for women’s rights and the rights of the minority Shia Muslims in the kingdom’s Eastern Province for many years. Badawi is also a vocal campaigner for rights activist Raif Badawi, her brother and Saudi Arabia's top blogger, and her former husband Waleed Abu al-Khair, who are serving lengthy prison sentences linked to their activism.
According to the report, Amal al-Harbi, the wife of jailed civic rights activist Fowzan al-Harbi, was also detained in late July.
“It is unclear why Saudi authorities have targeted Al-Harbi,” according to the statement.
The United Nations human rights office called on Saudi Arabia to release all peaceful activists as Riyadh continues its heavy-handed crackdown on dissent.
Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman of the UN rights office, during a press briefing in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday demanded the immediate release of all rights advocates, including women held for campaigning to lift a long-time ban on driving.
"We urge the government of Saudi Arabia to unconditionally release all human rights defenders and activists who have been detained for their peaceful human rights work, including their decades-long campaigns for the lifting of the driving ban for women," Shamdasani said.
“Dissent, criticism of the government is still not accepted in the country. That can explain why many of these human rights defenders and activists have been jailed. All of them have criticized government policies in one way or another,” she added.
Since May, a number of prominent women’s rights activists 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 Mohammad bin Salman.
Reforms have been accompanied by a heavy-handed crackdown on dissent, which has targeted clerics as well as some of the very female activists who campaigned for years to end the driving ban.