Saudi Arabia has released two prominent women’s rights activists held in detention for nearly three years, a rights group has confirmed.
“Human rights defenders Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah have been released following the expiry of the sentences against them,” ALQST for Human Rights said in a tweet on Sunday.
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— ALQST for Human Rights (@ALQST_En) June 27, 2021
The activists were arrested in August 2018 as part of a then widening government crackdown against peaceful dissent.
Most of those imprisoned, estimated to be in the dozens, campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions.
Badawi received the United States’ International Women of Courage Award in 2012 for challenging the guardianship system, and was among the first women who signed a petition calling on the government to allow women to drive, vote and run in local elections.
She is also the sister of Raif Badawi, a prominent human rights campaigner, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014 on charges of “insulting Islam” on his blog.
The reported release of wonderful Saudi human rights advocates @samarbadawi15 and @nasema33 is the best news I've heard in a while, but they should never have been jailed in the first place and deserve justice/compensation for their arbitrary detention. pic.twitter.com/XBKmexfjyv
— Adam Coogle (@cooglea) June 27, 2021
Al-Sadah, from the restive Shia-majority Qatif province, has also campaigned for the right to drive and to abolish the guardianship system. She was a candidate in the 2015 local elections which saw women run in elections for the first time.
Her name was ultimately removed by authorities.
Some of the women’s rights activists arrested in 2018 include Eman al-Nafjan, Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Aisha al-Manea, Ibrahim Modeimigh and Mohammed al-Rabea.
Though authorities overturned the decades-old ban on women driving, Saudi authorities justified the arrests by saying the activists had suspicious contacts with foreign entities and offering financial support to “enemies overseas”.