Here is why Saudi Arabia is arresting women’s rights activists.. updated list 7-8-2018

خائن

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.

Share this post and pass it over  so those women will not be forgotten behind bars..

 

Here is the list of Saudi  Women who were jailed

Some Saudi activists whom also supporters of women rights were arrested

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Modaimeegh

Abdulaziz Al-Mesha’al

Mohammad Al-Rabea

Ibrahim Fahad Al-Nafjan

 

Unnamed man that the state refused to release his name to the press.

 

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It is Official! I am Now a Political Refugee In Italy

It was back in 2013 when I decided to seek asylum in Mainland China. Yes, I know mainland China is not exactly a ” pro human rights ” country but I had no other choice. I was studying and living in China at that time. I heard the news by friends who are still in Saudi that the Saudi Arabian intelligence police are starting a campaign against activists and bloggers accusing them of apostasy and terrorism to justify long prison or death sentences .  Many have been arrested with no charges or trials too! some were banned from traveling outside Saudi Arabia.. and some tried to escape and failed like Hamaza Khasghari and some made it and escaped just like me!

This Anti-activists campaign  comes as no surprise to everyone after the Arab spring, As  Saudi Arabia knew that this political chaos is sooner or later going to hit Saudi. At first, it started with high profile activists like Raif Badawi and Waleed Abukhair and Shia rebels who were protesting  in Eastern province where majority of Shiite minority lives. Then this campaign extended further more to include some other activists and  Sunni religious figures who are anti Al Saud regime.

It is difficult to tell how many have been arrested or killed since this campaign started!  many who were imprisoned did not want to make their arrest go public, as they fear that publicity will negatively affect their trial like it did with other activists before them.

One of them is a friend of mine, A.H.S whom I asked him to join me in China before its too late. Unfortunately, it was too late for him.  He was arrested and charged with apostasy. He was released not so long ago after he appealed but he is still banned from traveling out of Saudi Arabia.

Seeing the news of continuous arbitrary detention of  Saudi activists was upsetting, but what is even more upsetting was this international ” silence” that is bought by the  Saudi black gold.

All this made me reckon that staying in Saudi as an activist wouldn’t be a good idea. Thats when I decided seek asylum in China.

Not knowing how things work, I first went to the Norwegian embassy which advised me to go to UNHCR– Beijing.   I was given an appointment in 2014.  Then it took another year of intensive investigation  and extremely long very tiring and emotional interviews   before the committee of UNHCR come to their final decision which was in May 2015.

I will never forget the phone call when the a member of the UNHCR told me that my request of international protection has been approved by the committee. I was in shock, I remember I  cried and smiled at the same time upon receiving the news through the phone.

Maybe it was a combination of sadness and happiness.. knowing that this is it, a one way ticket to freedom and the no return point. I will be gaining freedom but losing family, friends and a lot more.  I must admit,  It is a very difficult compromise . I still recall Manal Al Sharif warning me saying ”Omaima, don’t burn the bridges behind you, you might want to go back”.

There were difficult times in which I had feelings of regret, self-pity and nostalgia.  For instance, the time I had a car accident in China in  April 2016 and I was  alone with an injured spinal cord. Another time when I had legal issues in Norway when I was trying to transfer my UNHCR refugee status to Norway and it didn’t work. Then when I was brought by police force to Italy and sent to a former prison that was transformed into a illegal refugee reception center! yes, Ironically My UNHCR refugee status was meaningless and useless that is  what I found out later.  Maybe I will write about those horrible experiences that I had to go through in another post.

I had to  go through the suffering again  and repeat the process in Italy, I had to go through everything from zero as if I have not done it before.  I came to Italy in the summer of 2016. and  received the news on the 10th of Nov 2017. It  took  about 15 very  long months.

As you might all know, Europe is going through refugee crisis. However, Italy along with Greece deal with the crisis the most because of the high influx of migrants coming by the sea from the Libyan shores. Italy is one of the worst countries to be refugee in. I must say being a refugee here is not a walk in the park. It takes a high threshold of patience to be able to endure all this suffering I have been through.  So Saudi activists out there be warned, the price of freedom is high. Sadly, pain, loneliness and hardship is part of it. I will be writing a post about My journey  as asylum seeker sometime in the future.

I writing this post to just happily announce that finally this very long and bitter struggle is over and My journey  has came to an end. Now with this political refugee status I can obtain a refugee travel document and legal papers that allow me to stay in Italy, travel abroad and have a normal life.

 

The Long Journey to Freedom

Dear Readers,

I know I have not been blogging for a while now, that is because I have been on the road looking for a country to settle in.

I obtained a refugee status (international protection) from The United Nation Office in China and went to Norway. Unfortunately and I must say unexpectedly, Norway has rejected to take my case and deported me out!

Yes, shocking isn’t?

 Hence, I am now on the road again looking for place to settle.

I am hoping that soon I will be blogging again to write about my never ending journey to freedom.

 

Love!

Omaima

Free Loujain and Maysaa

free lujain and maysaa

It has been 2 weeks since the arrest of the Saudi activists Lojain Al Hathloul and Maysaa Al Amoudi.
Loujain was crossing the boarders of UAE/Saudi Arabia driving her own car attempting to break the driving ban in Saudi Arabia when she was arrested earlier this month.
Loujain was stopped on the boarders for over 24 hours, While Saudi Arabian officers at the boarders making phone calls trying to reach the ministry of interior affairs to report Loujain Al Hathloul.
Saudi Officers refused to let Loujain enter the country because she was driving her car. Even though, Loujain holds a valid driving license.
A Saudi officer suggested to Loujain to either go to Saudi Arabia by bus or by plane as she is not allowed to drive a car in Saudi Arabia since she is a ”woman”. Loujain who is holding a valid GCC driving license argued ” I am a Saudi citizen with a Saudi passport, and as per the law a holder of GCC driving license can drive anywhere within gulf countries ” including Saudi Arabia” as there is no exception in the law against Saudi women.
Yet, she was kept in custody in the boarders for over 24 hours and when Maysaa Al Amoudi, another Saudi activists resides in UAE came to help loujain, the police arrested her as well. Maysaa’s sister Wafa Al Amoudi posted a video asking the Saudi autorities to release both her sister and Loujain Al hathlol saying that her sister had no intention to cross the baorders, she was only bringing something to loujain when she was arrested.
The two Saudi activists have been in prison in Saudi Arabia since the 1st of Dec 2014.
Human rights Activists have started an online campaign demanding Saudi authorities to free Loujain al Hathloul and Maysaa Al Amoudi.
join the campaign on facebook or show your support to Loujain and maysaa by posting a video on youtube demanding Saudi authorities to release Loujain and Maysaa.
You had previously supported Manal Alsharif back in 2011 and your support brought the media attention to the matter and that played an important role in releasing Manal Alsharif.

So please join the ”free loujain and maysaa campaign” here!