Amnesty International has called on Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately release a group of women activists that have been “detained simply for demanding equality and defending human rights.”
The Britain-based organization mentioned Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan and Aziza Al-Yousef among several Saudi advocates for women’s rights, whom officials have jailed for almost two years. “Many of these women led the campaign for the lifting of the driving ban on women over the past years. The ban was lifted in June 2018, but the women who made it happen still haven’t had the opportunity to legally sit behind the wheel, instead they are sitting behind bars, locked up in prison cells,” it said. It added the wave of arrests didn’t end, as in July 2018 Saudi authorities arrested Samar Badawi and Nassima Al-Sada, also prominent women activists who remain detained.
Amnesty International further highlighted that several of the women activists had endured torture, sexual abuse and other forms of ill-treatment, and that they were held incommunicado and in solitary confinement with no access to their families or or lawyers, according to Press TV. Up until June 24, 2018, Saudi Arabia had been the only country in the world to prevent women from driving, and even jailed some who defied the ban.
As Saudi Arabia prepared to lift its long-standing ban on women drivers in June 2018, authorities launched an unprecedented crackdown on women human rights defenders with the May 15th arrests of prominent activists. Authorities and government-aligned media then tried to discredit five of the activists as traitors through a public smear campaign. Over the following three weeks, authorities arrested twelve other human rights defenders, including both women and men. Two additional women were arrested in August, Human Rights Commission reported.
Amnesty UK has launched a “Beep for freedom” campaign in support of the persecuted women’s rights defenders. The campaign involves supporters sharing photos of themselves behind the wheel of a car or sharing the campaign’s “Beep For Freedom” car horn symbol, with an appeal to the Saudi authorities to “immediately and unconditionally” release the activists and drop all charges against them. Dissidents in the conservative country are often arbitrarily detained without charge or trial, AA told.