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Petition calls on UN to pressure Saudi Arabia to free human rights activists

April 02nd, 2019
topics:Humans
by:Yair Oded
located in:Saudi Arabia
tags:activism, human-rights, Saudi Arabia, Women's Right

Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights violations have come under tighter scrutiny in the past year. One of the incidents that drew global attention to the kingdom’s oppressive regime is the arrest of more than a dozen activists who fought for women’s rights just as the Saudi government was preparing to lift a ban that forbade women from driving and traveling without the permission of their male guardian.

A Change.org petition launched by Women’s March Global is calling upon the United Nations to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its human rights violations and release the activists, who are currently pending trial.

The activists, both male and female, were arrested last spring, as they engaged in different methods of campaigning against the ban on women driving. According to The New York Times, some were arrested as they were in the process of opening shelters for abused women.

The Saudi authorities have accused the activists of attempting to “undermine the security and stability of the kingdom,” collaborating with domestic and foreign elements that are “hostile” to the kingdom, and conspiring with government employees to access classified information.

Out of the 17 activists that were arrested, eight are still in jail. Testimonies of the activists, their family members, and individuals familiar with the circumstances of their cases reveal that they were subject to brutal torture and abuse by the authorities while in jail.

Walid al-Hathloul, whose sister, Loujain al-Hathloul, is among the imprisoned activists, wrote in a New York Times Op-Ed that her sister “was shaking uncontrollably” and “unable to hold her grip, to walk or sit normally,” during a family visit. She further wrote that al-Hathloul later revealed to their parents that she was “held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder.” Evidence of torture, electrocution, and sexual abuse of the detained activists by the Saudi authorities was further supported by reports published by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced that the investigations were completed and that the cases will be taken to trial (whose dates have yet to be announced). The government, however, did not bother to specify what crimes the activists were charged with. Walid al-Hathloul bemoaned the government's refusal to publish the results of the investigations, and added on Twitter that, “if there was a confession, it was a confession under torture.”

The arrest and torture of activists, coupled with the brutal murder of dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul by Saudi agents last October, generated mixed reactions by the international community. Some countries, such as Canada, came out in blatant condemnation of the Saudi crown prince, urging him to release the activists and end his wanton persecution of critics and human rights activists in the kingdom.

Other world leaders, such as Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Donald Trump, chose to side with the crown prince and place strategic and financial incentives ahead of human rights concerns.

As the Saudi crown prince consolidates his autocracy in the kingdom, the human rights of its citizens, and particularly of women and vulnerable populations, are placed under a greater threat. Only sufficient pressure by the international community and prominent world leaders could prevent the crown prince from further oppressing his people. The reaction of the world to the torture and imprisonment of the jailed activists is therefore crucial, as it signals to the crown prince whether his actions will be met with global resistance or whether his campaign of persecution can proceed unimpeded.

Women’s March Global’s petition has garnered over 246,000 signatures so far, amplifying its demand for the United Nations to hold Saudi Arabia accountable and release the activists. Visit the petition’s page to add your name to the growing list of supporters and help them reach their goal of 300,000 signatures.

Article written by:
yair oded profile
Yair Oded
Author, Project Editor, Contributing Editor
One of the incidents is the arrest of more than a dozen activists who fought for women’s rights.
A Change.org petition launched by Women’s March Global is calling upon the United Nations to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its human rights violations and release the activists, who are currently pending trial.
As the Saudi crown prince consolidates his autocracy in the kingdom, the human rights of its citizens, and particularly of women and vulnerable populations, are placed under a greater threat.
saudi Join Women’s March Global in uniting with Saudi activists who demand that the United Nations hold Saudi Arabia accountable for human rights violations.

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