Saudi Arabia women ‘arrested’ in ongoing crackdown on activists

UK-based human rights group says Mayaa al-Zahrani and Nouf Abdelaziz al-Jerawi detained this week by Saudi authorities.

Saudi authorities have arrested two more women’s rights activist in the last three days, according to a human rights group.

ALQST, a UK-based rights group focusing on Saudi Arabia, said Mayaa al-Zahrani was detained on Saturday for a social media post in support of Nouf Abdulaziz al-Jerawi, a fellow activist arrested on Wednesday when security forces raided her home.

Al-Zahrani had also posted an article written by al-Jerawi, where the latter clarified her role as volunteering to help the oppressed by putting them in contact with lawyers and human rights groups.

“Why am I considered as an enemy of the state that threatens its security?” al-Jerawi wrote in a post that has been widely circulated.

ALQST described the detention of the two women as part of “the ongoing arrests of activists”.

“We believe the Saudi authorities are keen to suppress all activists, and all sympathy with them,” the rights group said.

The arrests were also reported by Prisoners of Conscience, a rights group that documents the arrests of Saudi nationals. 

“It is quite clear that the Saudi authorities want to silence and put behind bars voices that speak against their opinion,” the group said on Twitter. 

“It’s clear that they [Saudi authorities] fear the impact these voices may have on the community.”

‘On the side of the citizen’

Last month, the government announced that a number of activists were being held for having suspicious contacts with foreign entities, as well as offering financial support to “foreign enemies”.

Other suspects were being sought, the government said at the time, while state-linked media labelled those arrested as traitors and “agents of embassies”.

Eight of the 17 detained activists, including five women, were later temporarily released “until the completion of their procedural review”.

None of the activists have yet been officially charged, and remain incommunicado with no access to their families or lawyers.

Al-Jerawi, a journalist and TV producer, had expressed her support to the arrested women who had advocated for equal rights, the end of the male guardianship system, and for the ban on women driving to be lifted.

Yahya Assiri, head of ALQST, told Al Jazeera that the activists were arrested because of their communication with international media and human rights organisations in order to “reveal the violations of the Saudi government” against its population.


“These activists are on the side of the citizen, not the authorities,” Assiri said.

“The Saudi government considers defending the rights of the oppressed as treachery, but being in touch with human rights organisations, with independent, transparent media outlets and with embassies and countries for the sake of bettering the interests of one’s own country and citizens – that is patriotism.”

The activists are considered by the Saudi government as traitors, Assiri, a former air force officer, continued.

“Who is the enemy of the Saudi authorities? It is the human rights organisations and media outlets that do not repeat the propaganda of Mohammed bin Salman,” he said, referring to the Saudi crown prince, also known as MBS, who has promised a series of social reforms for the kingdom, including the lifting of the driving ban on June 24.

Tyler Perry, a US specialist of human rights in the Gulf, told Al Jazeera, said activists in Saudi Arabia were being targeted and arrested “solely because of their right of expression – and that is unacceptable”.

“Writing reports and contacting media is a human right and not a terrorist crime,” he added.

Source: Al Jazeera