In May 2018, authorities in Saudi Arabia detained University of British Columbia graduate Loujain al-Hathloul, along with Iman al-Nafjan and Aziza-al-Yousef. All three are prominent women’s rights activists and leading campaigners for lifting the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. They were among a group of Saudi Arabian women human rights defenders arrested in a sweeping wave of arrests.
In early August, two other women human rights defenders, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada, were detained. Samar Badawi is the sister of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi.
The crackdown on freedom of expression, association and assembly in Saudi Arabia continued unabated. In late August, the Saudi authorities called for Israa al-Ghomgham and four other people to be executed for offences related to their participation in protests in the Shi’a majority Eastern Province.
Loujain, Iman, Aziza, Samar, and Nassima continue to be detained without charge.
SMEARED AS TRAITORS
BY THE SAUDI MEDIA
State media in Saudi Arabia have branded the women as traitors, and have accused some of the women of forming a “cell,” posing a threat to state security for their “contact with foreign entities with the aim of undermining the country’s stability and social fabric.” Smear campaigns like this are a common tactic used worldwide to try and discredit human rights defenders.
Women human rights defenders around the world face harassment and violence because they are women, and because they may step outside traditional gender norms to publicly advocate for equality.
Loujain, Iman, Aziza, Samar, and Nassima are courageous women human rights defenders who have publicly and peacefully advocated for an end to the male guardianship system, the right to drive, and more broadly, for justice and equality. The price they are paying for their activism is steep; if charged, they could face up to 20 years in prison.
Act now > Write to the Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Canada and call for the immediate and unconditional release of the women human rights defenders.
Learn more about the jailed women human rights defenders and what you can do to help.