UN Says Saudi Arabia Must Free Women’s Rights Activists
The country has detained more than a dozen since May.
Humans rights experts are seeking justice on behalf of the United Nations for six detained activists in Saudi Arabia.
“No one should ever be punished for exercising their most fundamental human rights, much less face the death penalty,” the statement said.
Saudi Arabia has detained more than a dozen women rights activists since May.
Many of the women being held fought against the country’s restrictive driving ban, which prohibited them from taking the wheel and was lifted in June. Others campaigned for women's’ right to vote in the kingdom, granted in local elections in 2015.
On the surface, it may look like the country is easing up on laws that oppress women under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but its treatment of human rights activists suggests otherwise.
The majority of detained activists also publicly opposed the country’s male guardianship system, requiring women to get approval from a male relative before doing most things.
Israa Al-Ghomgham, who’s being held by authorities, is at risk of facing the death penalty after being arrested three years ago for supporting anti-government protests and encouraging others to go against the country’s laws. The statement referred to the punishment as ‘reprehensible.’
UN experts urge #SaudiArabia to immediately and unconditionally release all women #HumanRightsDefenders, including 6 defenders who remain in jail on charges relating to their peaceful defence of human rights.— UN Special Procedures (@UN_SPExperts) October 12, 2018
The UN is standing up for five others, including activists Samar Badawi, Hatoon Al-Fassi, Nassima Al-Sadah, Nouf Abdulaziz and Mayya Al-Zahrani—who haven’t been able to communicate with the outside world while in detainment and have been labeled ‘traitors’ by Saudi authorities.
“In the context of widespread and systemic gender discrimination, women human rights defenders face particular risks, especially when their work challenges stereotypical ideas about women’s place in society, as in this case,” the UN experts said.