The headline ‘’ Women in Saudi now can drive ‘’ was all over the newspapers worldwide few months ago. It was a big news here in Italy, where I currently live as a refugee. I remember that morning very well, I was on my way to work when I met a woman who used to work for the refugee center and said ‘’ Did you read the news? Women can drive in Saudi now? Are you going back to Saudi Arabia?? ‘’. Unfortunately, the majority of people abroad are not aware of the depth of the problems Saudi women face and how shallow this ‘’ Royal decree’’ / decision to left the driving ban.
Women in Saudi not only can not drive, but they can not travel, marry or divorce, pursue education, work or get surgery done in a hospital without a consent of a male guardian. This male guardian law is more of an ownership/slavery system that gives men full power over women. Sadly, this also permits violence against women. Violence against women and girls is a major issue in Saudi Arabia. It is so common that its becoming more of a ‘’ cultural thing’’.
The ‘’ institutional discrimination ‘’against women also bans women from the right to have a safe-house or protection when escaping violence. Instead, a woman is jailed in a center until the male guardian whom also ‘’ the abuser’’ comes and pick her up. If a woman refuses to leave with him, she is to be jailed for life. Hence, women’s right activists in Saudi Arabia never stopped campaigning and demanding for more rights like the right to be fully free first-class citizen like their male counterparts and for the male guardianship to be abolished.
For Saudi women the Royal decree was not enough. Women’s rights activists wanted full reforms that will grant women their full rights. Some of the activists continued to blog, others continued campaigning on social media like twitter and some created anti violence center for women escaping violence. Unfortunately, creating civil institutions to protect women escaping violence and campaigning against male guardianship laws are considered punishable crimes in Saudi Arabia.
Those women who were arrested are being accused of serious crimes such as ‘’ contact with foreign units with the purpose of undermining the country’s stability and social fabric’’ They are also being called agents and traitors to the country. In other words, spies. Their pictures were posted on the first page of many local new sites with a big word of traitor written with red color on top. This was done to send a message to other women’s rights activists who are part of the network. The arrests are still ongoing. I personally have a short list of some of the women who were arrested but I am afraid the list is a lot longer.
This series of arrests targeting activists is not new in Saudi Arabia. In 2011 many human rights activists were jailed and sentenced to lengthy prison sentences and were charged with crimes like terrorism and apostasy. Some even received a death sentence and executed in a mass execution in 2016
This regrouping and campaigning continuously to demand for women’s rights have frightened the new young Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. He is well-known for his zero tolerance toward opposition movements and social activism. Just not long ago he fearlessly arrested 500 members of the Saudi royal family including Waleed bin Talal and Mutaib bin Abdullah, the son of the late king of Saudi Arabia. For this reason, arresting women’s right activists who were bringing international attention to Saudi Arabia’s violation of human rights against women was not that difficult for the new crown prince.
At last, I hope that Saudi women those who are still in Saudi Arabia and those who escaped and became refugees like myself to continue blogging spreading the word until those women are released from prison.
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Here is the list of Saudi Women who were jailed
- Dr.Eman Fahad Al Nafjan
- Loujain Fahad Al Hathloul
- Dr. Aisha Almana ( UPDATE ) released on the 23rd of May 2018)
- Wala Alshubbar
- Aziza Al yousef
- Dr. Hessa Al shaikh ( UPDATE RELEASED) 24th of May 2018
- Madeha Al-Ajroush ( Update released) 24th of May 2018
Some Saudi activists whom also supporters of women rights were arrested
Dr. Ibrahim Al-Modaimeegh
Ibrahim Fahad Al-Nafjan
Unnamed man that the state refused to release his name to the press.