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.