Al Jazeera World

Saudi Women: Reform or Repression?

Saudi female activists ask why arrests, detention and alleged torture continue, despite apparent reforms.

Just how free are women in Saudi Arabia today? The Saudi government has said it supports the empowerment of women and young people. While there have been reforms, including lifting the ban on women driving in June 2018, the arrest and detention of women speaking out against the government appear to have continued.

Al Jazeera World looks at the individual cases of five Saudi women currently in detention, or who have fled the country following apparent harassment for their political views. It asks whether Saudi Arabia is publicly championing the rights of women while privately punishing those who challenge the status quo.

In this film, the family of one detainee makes serious allegations of torture during her imprisonment, while others give testimonies about random arrests and arbitrary detention at Dhahban prison near Jeddah. According to Human Rights Watch, and following international pressure, the Saudi Human Rights Commission carried out an investigation into conditions at Dhahban and found no evidence of torture.

This film examines the consequences of activism in Saudi Arabia, hearing from women detainees and international human rights organisations, as well as seeking responses from those at the heart of decision-making within the country.