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Saudi Arabia

    August 23, 2018

    The ongoing arbitrary detention of several women’s rights defenders in Saudi Arabia is outrageous, Amnesty International said today, as three prominent activists reach 100 days of being held without charge.

    Since May, at least 12 leading human rights activists in Saudi Arabia have been detained without charge. Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef were all imprisoned on 15 May and today (23 August) marks 100 days since their detention.

    “It is absolutely outrageous that so many brave human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are still being held without charge – apparently for simply speaking out against injustice,” said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.

    “They have been detained without charge and with no legal representation for more than three months. This must not go on any longer. The world cannot carry on looking the other way as this relentless persecution of those who stand up for human rights in Saudi Arabia continues.”

    August 08, 2018
    Demand freedom for women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia

    By Alex Neve
    Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada

    Last week, two prominent and courageous women’s rights activists, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada, were arrested in Saudi Arabia.

    No one imagined that on top of the personal injustice for Samar and Nassima that their arrest was going to spark a major diplomatic stand-off between Canada and Saudi Arabia about human rights.  And in doing so, put Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record in the international spotlight in ways that it rarely is.

    Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada are, sadly, two more in a growing list of women human rights defenders arrested and jailed in Saudi Arabia over the past three months. That includes Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef, imprisoned since mid-May.  Loujain has strong Canadian connections, as she is a graduate of the University of British Columbia.  

    August 06, 2018

    Responding to Saudi Arabia’s announcement, on August 5th, of diplomatic and trade measures against Canada, in retaliation for recent Canadian government calls for prisoners of conscience to be freed in the country, Amnesty International Canada said the aggressive action points to an urgent need for greater international pressure for genuine and lasting human rights reform in Saudi Arabia.

    Measures announced include the recall of Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador from Canada, a demand that Canada’s Ambassador leave Saudi Arabia within 24 hours and a suspension of new trade and investment.  Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry accused Canada of “overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs” of the country.  The move came following a tweet three days earlier from Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, indicating that Canada was, “Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.”

    August 01, 2018

    The arrest of two more prominent women human rights activists in Saudi Arabia is further proof of a crackdown that shows no sign of relenting, Amnesty International said today.

    Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada were detained earlier this week, Amnesty International has learned. They have both been repeatedly targeted, harassed, and placed under travel bans for their human rights activism.

    “This unprecedented level of persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia is a disturbing sign that the crackdown is far from over,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director.

    “These brave women represented the last vestiges of the human rights community in the country, and now they too have been detained. Saudi Arabia’s new leadership under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has crushed any space for the existence of human rights defenders in the country.

    June 21, 2018

    Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow women to drive is welcome but must now be followed by more reforms to women’s rights, Amnesty International said today.

    This weekend (Sunday 24 June) women will be allowed to drive in the country as the controversial driving ban is lifted.

    However, leading women’s rights activists and campaigners against the driving ban - including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef - are among eight activists still being detained in Saudi Arabia for their peaceful human rights work. Some have been detained without charge for more than one month, and may face trial before the counter-terror court and up to 20 years in prison for their activism.

    The women’s rights activists detained have campaigned for the right to drive and the end of the repressive male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia for many years.

    June 01, 2018

    The international community and allies of the Saudi Arabian government must speak up to help secure the immediate and unconditional release of the women’s rights defenders currently detained in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International said today.

    More than two weeks have now passed since a number of prominent women’s rights activists, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Youssef were arrested, and yet they remain detained without charge and incommunicado with no access to their families or lawyers.

    Yesterday, the European Parliament issued a resolution calling for their unconditional release and that of all human rights defenders. It also called for a more vocal European response.

    “The Saudi Arabian authorities’ endless harassment of women’s rights activists is entirely unjustifiable, and the world must not remain silent on the repression of human rights defenders in the country”, said Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns.

    June 01, 2018

    Since the 1990s, women in Saudi Arabia have been advocating for the right to drive cars. The driving ban was overturned last year, and women will finally be allowed to drive starting June 24, 2018.

    But just weeks before the ban is set to be lifted, Saudi authorities have detained—without charge—and held incommunicado, some of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent and outspoken women human rights defenders, including University of British Columbia graduate Loujain al-Hathloul. At least 11 women human rights defenders have been arrested and six remain in detention. To Amnesty International’s knowledge, none have been charged with an offense. They have no access to lawyers or their families, and they are at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

    The activists arrested have all peacefully advocated for women’s right to drive, an end to the male guardianship system, and gender equality. Arresting the most prominent women’s rights advocates could decimate the women’s rights movement in Saudi Arabia.

    May 31, 2018

    Since May 2018, authorities in Saudi Arabia have arrested some of the country’s most prominent women human rights defenders. 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. They have done nothing wrong, have not been charged with any crime, and should be released immediately and unconditionally. 

    We need you to take action online to support women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia. 

    Saudi officials monitor social media and are sensitive to international pressure. This is why Amnesty International’s actions directly target the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Ottawa and official Saudi government social media feeds to:

    May 28, 2018

    Women in Saudi Arabia have publicly campaigned to lift the ban on them driving since 1990, when around 40 women drove their cars down a main street in Riyadh, the capital. They were stopped by police and a number of them were suspended from work.

    Since then, these protests have been sustained. In 2007, campaigners sent a petition to the late King Abdullah, while the following year campaigner Wajeha al-Huwaider filmed herself driving and posted the video on YouTube to mark International Women's Day. 

    Saudi women again used YouTube to post videos of themselves behind the wheel to protest against the ban in 2011. Some were arrested and others were forced to sign pledges to desist from driving. At least one woman was tried and sentenced to 10 lashes.

    May 25, 2018

    Responding to the arrest of prominent human rights defender Mohammed al-Bajadi in Saudi Arabia today, Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said:

    “This new arrest is yet another ominous development in the relentless crackdown on human rights activists in Saudi Arabia.

    “Mohammed al-Bajadi is a tireless campaigner for human rights who, along with all those detained in the recent crackdown, has only been targeted because of his important work.

    “Despite global outrage, authorities have again responded with even more repression against Saudi Arabia’s human rights community who have been repeatedly persecuted for their work.

    “Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman continues to promote his ‘reforms’ to the international public, while silencing anyone at home who dares to question his policies. It is time for this rank hypocrisy to stop.

    May 23, 2018

    Responding to news reports that more people have been detained in Saudi Arabia – bringing to 11 the number imprisoned since last week – Samah Hadid, Amnesty International's Middle East Director of Campaigns, said:

    “Amnesty International is extremely concerned following reports that yet more individuals and activists have been arrested in Saudi Arabia.

    “Despite the international outcry at last week’s arrests, authorities have responded with even more repression in a desperate attempt to silence dissent and feminist voices speaking up for human rights.

    “Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman presents himself as a ‘reformer’, but his promises are meaningless if those who fought for women’s right to drive are now all behind bars for peacefully campaigning for freedom of movement and equality.

    “We call on the authorities to reveal the whereabouts of these individuals and either charge them with a recognizable offence - or release them immediately.”

    Background

    May 18, 2018

    Responding to reports that several prominent women’s rights defenders in Saudi Arabia have been detained this week, Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said: “This is an extremely worrying development for women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia.

    “The Saudi Arabian authorities’ endless harassment of women’s rights defenders is entirely unjustifiable.

    “Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman has presented himself as a ‘reformer’, but his promises of reform seem entirely superficial as the repression of human rights activists continues unabated.

    “Saudi Arabia cannot continue to publicly proclaim support for women’s rights and other reforms, while targeting women human rights defenders and activists for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly.

    “We are calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all activists that may still be detained solely for their human rights work.”

    February 22, 2018
    Amnesty International publishes State of the World’s Human Rights report for 2017 to 2018 “Last year our world was immersed in crises, with prominent leaders offering us a nightmarish vision of a society blinded by hatred and fear. This emboldened those who promote bigotry, but it inspired far more people to campaign for a more hopeful future,” says Salil Shetty, head of Amnesty International

    The world is reaping the terrifying consequences of hate-filled rhetoric that threatens to normalize massive discrimination against marginalized groups, Amnesty International warned today as it launched its annual assessment of human rights.

    Nevertheless, the organization found that a growing movement of both first-time and seasoned activists campaigning for social justice provides real hope of reversing the slide towards oppression.

    The report, The State of the World’s Human Rights, covers 159 countries and delivers the most comprehensive analysis of the state of human rights in the world today.

    January 30, 2018

    By Kareem Chehayeb, Amnesty International's Gulf researcher

    At the World Economic Forum at Davos this week, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced ambitious new plans for a “fundamental transformation” of the country. 

    “The world is not used to seeing Saudi Arabia moving quickly and boldly,” he told assembled world leaders.

    It was the latest move in Saudi Arabia’s recent PR offensive, which has seen Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman promise modernization and lift the notorious ban on women driving. But changes so far have been superficial and serious human rights violations, both at home and abroad, remain major obstacles to meaningful reform in Saudi Arabia. 

    While women drivers and newly legalized cinemas may make headlines, they barely scratch the surface of the reform needed within the country. Human rights violations aren’t sporadic; they are systematic, and Saudi Arabia needs to effect a fundamental structural change if it is serious about progress.

    Here are some key steps that Saudi Arabia needs to take if it wants to fulfil its ambitions: 

    January 25, 2018

    Responding to the sentencing today of two prominent human rights activists Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi by the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) in Riyadh to 14 and seven years in prison respectively, Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for the Middle-East at Amnesty International said:

    “The harsh sentencing of Mohammad al-Otaibi and Abdullah al-Attawi, who should never have been prosecuted in the first place, confirms our fears that the new leadership of Mohamed Bin Salman is determined to silence civil society and human rights defenders in the Kingdom.

    “The crackdown on members of the human rights community has continued unabated, with almost all the country’s most prominent human rights defenders now behind bars. These actions, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, fly in the face of his recently declared ambitions to modernize the Kingdom.

    “If Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman is truly intent on bringing reforms to Saudi Arabia, he must ensure the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience, including human rights defenders, detained solely for peacefully exercising their human rights.”

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