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Saudi woman arrives at a mosque to offer Eid al-Fitr morning prayers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
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NewsGirls & Women

Saudi Feminists Launch Underground Internet Radio Show

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Feminist Saudi women have launched an anonymous online radio show to broadcast their desire for greater women’s rights.

Nsawya FM (Feminism FM) addresses domestic violence, male guardianship, and other issues restricting women’s rights in the Gulf kingdom, reported the BBC.

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"We started this project to archive this phase for history, so that people would know we were real, we did exist," said the presenter, Ashtar, in an interview with the BBC. "The Saudi authorities could ban Twitter at any moment and we would lose the archive of our thoughts. Whereas the radio gives us the opportunity to record programs and broadcast them on other platforms."

She is not alone in her efforts: Nsawya FM has two presenters and nine women producing content, according to the report. All are of the women are Saudi nationals, save two, but not all of them currently reside in Saudi Arabia.

The women told the BBC that communication between them is difficult because they live in different time zones and some have other demands on their time, including studies or work.

Since launching, the station has broadcast two one-hour programs using a minimalist studio, featuring only a microphone, a laptop, and the live audio streaming website Mixlr.

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The activists are also promoting their campaign via Twitter, the most popular social media platform in Saudi Arabia.

“Our goal is to be the voice of the silent majority, to give everyone the opportunity to share their views, ideas, criticism, articles, and poems,” the station’s first tweet said, according to Newsweek.

But while a women’s driving ban in the kingdom was recently lifted, many are still critical of women using media to push for further reforms, and some activists have been punished for doing so.

More than 17 human rights defenders and women's rights activists critical of the Saudi government have been arrested or detained this spring and summer, according to the UN.

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Several have been accused of serious crimes, including "suspicious contact with foreign parties," according to the report, and could face up to 20 years in prison.

“The arrests of Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah signal that the Saudi authorities see any peaceful dissent, whether past or present, as a threat to their autocratic rule,”  said the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson, in an interview with Newsweek.

“After recent arbitrary arrests of businesspeople, women’s rights activists, and reformist clerics,” she continued, “Saudi Arabia’s allies and partners should question what ‘reform’ really means in a country where the rule of law is disdainfully ignored.”