13 activists remain on trial
3 activists remain in jail
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These courageous activists have peacefully advocated for the right of women to drive, an end to the male guardianship system, and for justice and equality.
It’s been almost two years since Saudi authorities detained Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef and a group of Saudi women activists simply for demanding equality and defending human rights in Saudi Arabia.
Many of these women led a multi-year campaign to lift the driving ban on women. The ban was lifted in June 2018, but not all the women who made it happen have had the opportunity to legally sit behind the wheel. Instead some remain behind bars, locked up in prison cells.
The wave of arrests didn’t end there. In July 2018, Saudi authorities arrested Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada, also prominent women activists. Nassima and Samar have spent lengthy periods of time since their arrests in solitary confinement.
For the first three months of their detention, several of the women activists endured torture, sexual abuse and other forms of ill-treatment. They were detained incommunicado during that period, with no access to their families or lawyers.
On March 13, 2019, Loujain, Iman, and Aziza were among 11 women activists brought to trial before the Criminal Court in Riyadh. The court session was closed and diplomats and journalists were banned from attending. Several women activists face charges of contacting foreign media, other activists and international organizations including Amnesty International. Some of them were also accused of “promoting women’s rights” and “calling for the end of the male guardianship system.”
Following the court session, Iman, Aziza and a few other women activists including Dr Ruqayyah al-Muharib, Amal al-Harbi, Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi, Dr. Abir al-Namankani and Maysaa al-Mane’a were temporarily and provisionally released. However, they continue to face trial and remain at risk of being sentenced to prison terms. Releasing these women from detention is not enough, Saudi authorities must drop all charges against them.
Nassima and Samar were brought to trial before the Criminal Court in Riyadh in July 2019, after a year of arbitrary detention, and remain in detention.
As of early February 2020, 13 women’s rights activists remain on trial, and three activists (Loujain, Nassima, and Samar) remain in prison. Amnesty International considers these women prisoners of conscience and calls for their immediate and unconditional release and for all charges against them to be dropped.
In August 2019, Saudi Arabian newspapers announced major reforms to several laws easing some of the major restrictions which are imposed on women as part of the country’s repressive male guardianship system. The reforms will allow women the right to obtain a passport that should make it possible for them to travel without the permission of a male guardian. They also give women equal rights to lead household and some family-related matters. Saudi Arabia must follow up on crucial reforms announced today to address women’s rights by ending its persecution of women human rights defenders and immediately and unconditionally releasing those who are currently detained for their peaceful activism.