[WSMDiscuss] Saudi Arabia in movement…, Women in movement…, Freedoms in movement… : Saudi womens’ activists arrested, branded as traitors
jai.sen at cacim.net
Mon May 21 17:20:15 CEST 2018
Monday, May 21, 2018
Saudi Arabia in movement…, Women in movement…, Freedoms in movement…
Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors
Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press (May 20 2018)
Saudi Arabia 'arrests women's rights activists'
Saudi authorities detained seven women's rights defenders since May 15, Human Rights Watch says (May 19 2018)
Detained Saudi womens’ activists branded as traitors
DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
The Associated Press
Published 22 hours ago
Updated May 20, 2018
Among those detained since Tuesday, May 15, 2018, is Loujain al-Hathloul, seen driving toward the UAE-Saudi border in 201. Ms. al-Hathloul was previously arrested and detained in late 2014 for more than 70 days.
Loujain al-Hathloul/The Canadian Press
Just weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift its ban on women driving, the kingdom’s state security said Saturday it had detained seven people who are being accused of working with “foreign entities.” Rights activists say all those detained had worked in some capacity on women’s rights issues, with five of those detained among the most prominent and outspoken women’s rights campaigners in the country.
Pro-government media outlets have splashed their photos online and in newspapers, accusing them of betrayal and of being traitors.
The women activists had persistently called for the right to drive, but stressed that this was only the first step toward full rights. For years, they also called for an end to less visible forms of discrimination, such as lifting guardianship laws that give male relatives final say on whether a woman can travel abroad, obtain a passport or marry.
Their movement was seen as part of a larger democratic and civil rights push in the kingdom, which remains an absolute monarchy where protests are illegal and where all major decision-making rests with the king and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Some state-linked media outlets published the names of those detained, which include Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Najfan.
Rights activists who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity for fear of repercussion say Madeha al-Ajroush and Aisha al-Manae are also among the seven detained. Both took part in the first women’s protest movement for the right to drive in 1990, in which 50 women were arrested for driving and lost their passports and their jobs.
All five women are well-known activists who agitated for greater women’s rights. Several of the women were professors at state-run universities and are mothers or grandmothers.
The Interior Ministry on Saturday did not name those arrested, but said the group is being investigated for communicating with “foreign entities,” working to recruit people in sensitive government positions and providing money to foreign circles with the aim of destabilizing and harming the kingdom.
The stunning arrests come just six weeks before Saudi Arabia is set to lift the world’s only ban on women driving next month.
When the kingdom issued its royal decree last year announcing that women would be allowed to drive in 2018, women’s rights activists were contacted by the royal court and warned against giving interviews to the media or speaking out on social media.
Following the warnings, some women left the country for a period of time and others stopped voicing their opinions on Twitter.
As activists were pressured into silence, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old heir to the throne stepped forth, positioning himself as the force behind the kingdom’s reforms.
Human Rights Watch says, however, the crown prince’s so-called reform campaign “has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment.”
“The message is clear that anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda faces time in jail,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
Last year, Prince Mohammed oversaw the arrests of dozens of writers, intellectuals and moderate clerics who were perceived as critics of his foreign policies. He also led an unprecedented shakedown of top princes and businessmen, forcing them to hand over significant portions of their wealth in exchange for their freedom as part of a purported anti-corruption campaign.
In an interview with CBS in March, he said that he was “absolutely” sending a message through these arrests that there was a new sheriff in town.
Activists say writer Mohammed al-Rabea and lawyer Ibrahim al-Mudaimigh, two men who worked to support women’s rights campaigners, are also among the seven detained. Al-Mudaimigh defended al-Hathloul in court when she was arrested in late 2014 for more than 70 days for her online criticism of the government and for attempting to bring attention to the driving ban by driving from neighbouring United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia.
Those familiar with the arrests say al-Hathloul was forcibly taken by security forces earlier this year from the UAE, where she was residing, and forced back to the kingdom.
In recent weeks, activists say several women’s rights campaigners were also banned from travelling abroad.
Immediately after news of the arrests broke, pro-government Twitter accounts were branding the group as treasonous under an Arabic hashtag describing them as traitors for foreign embassies.
The pro-government SaudiNews50 Twitter account, with its 11.5 million followers, splashed images of those arrested with red stamps over their face that read “traitor” and saying that “history spits in the face of the country’s traitors.”
The state-linked Al-Jazirah newspaper published on its front-page a photo of al-Hathloul and al-Yousef under a headline describing them as citizens who betrayed the nation.
Activists told the AP that some in the group were arrested on Tuesday and at least one person was arrested Thursday. They say the detainees were transferred from the capital, Riyadh, to the city of Jiddah for interrogations where the royal court has relocated for the month of Ramadan.
Activists say it’s not clear why the seven have been arrested now.
Saudi Arabia 'arrests women's rights activists'
Saudi authorities detained seven women's rights defenders since May 15, Human Rights Watch says.
19 May 2018
Saudi Arabia has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women [File: Reuters]
Saudi Arabia <https://www.aljazeera.com/topics/country/saudi-arabia.html> has arrested a number of female rights activists in the kingdom over the past days, rights group Human Rights Watch <https://www.aljazeera.com/topics/organisations/human-rights-watch.html> (HRW) and the Gulf Centre for Human Rights said.
In a statement issued on Saturday, US-based HWR said Saudi authorities had detained seven women's rights defenders since May 15.
The women have long been advocating an end to the ban on Saudi women driving and the abolishment of the male guardianship system, the group said.
"Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman's 'reform campaign' has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women's empowerment," HRW Middle East Director, Sarah Leah Whitson, said in a statement.
"The message is clear that anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince's rights agenda faces time in jail."
Among the detained women are Eman al-Nafjan, a Saudi blogger, and Lujain al-Hathloul, a women's rights activist who had been arrested previously and held for 75 days for attempting to drive back into Saudi Arabia from neighbouring United Arab Emirates (UAE).
According to testimonies given to HRW, the women claimed the royal court had ordered them not to speak to the media last year when the decision to reverse the long-standing ban on women driving was announced via royal decree.
As of June 24, women will be allowed to drive <https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/saudi-arabia-women-drive-170926190857109.html> for the first time in the kingdom, "in accordance with the Islamic laws".
On Friday, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights also said that "several human rights defenders were arrested".
According to group, al-Hathloul has not been able to communicate with her family or lawyer since being arrested, while al-Nafjan managed to contact her family once thus far.
Saudi Arabia has some of the world's tightest restrictions on women, despite ambitious government reforms aimed at boosting female employment.
Rothna Begum, a researcher at HRW, said the government is trying to silence critics, particularly those who champion women's rights reforms.
"While it's not clear why they were arrested, today we have seen Saudi press reports come to suggest that these women are traitors and have been arrested because they are undermining the national unity of the country," Begum told Al Jazeera.
"What we know is that the Saudi crown prince wants to make it clear to all of his citizens that they are his subjects who must be grateful for whatever liberties he gives them, but they must not demand any of their rights."
The country's 32-year-old crown prince has widely been credited with being behind the kingdom's lifting of the driving ban, part of a wider set of reforms being implemented as part of the Vision 2030 plan.
However, the country's guardianship system remains in place, under which a male family member - usually the father, husband or brother - must grant permission for a woman's study, travel and other activities.
Saudi activists claim that the guardianship issue is at the core of the fight for women's rights.
Since 2011, nearly 30 activists and dissidents have been convicted in Saudi courts, many of whom received sentences of up to 15 years, according to HRW.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera News
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