Amnesty International Canada

Saudi Arabia:
Justice for Women Human Rights Defenders

Criminalized for advocating for women’s equality

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Call on Saudi Arabia to stop criminalizing activists


His Excellency
Naif Bandir
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
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Peaceful Protest is not a Crime

From May-July 2018, some of the most prominent women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia—including Loujain al-Hathloul, Nassima al-Sada, and Samar Badawi—were arrested solely for their peaceful activism in support of justice and equality. These courageous activists publicly and peacefully advocated for an end to the male guardianship system, the right to drive, and an end to gender-based violence.

They were arrested in a sweeping wave of arrests as part of a crackdown on freedom of expression, association, and assembly in Saudi Arabia. Some of the activists reported being tortured while in detention. Some were held incommunicado and/or in solitary confinement for lengthy periods of time.

The women human rights defenders were charged with bogus offenses. Many spent years in prison and have been convicted. Loujain al-Hathloul was convicted on terrorism charges.

The women human rights defenders have now been released from prison but they are not free. They face strict bail conditions that prevent them from continuing their activism. The activists, and in some cases their families, are subject to travel bans of five years. Saudi authorities carried out a smear campaign against the activists in state-run media, and as a result, the women human rights defenders now face a heightened threat of harassment and violence.

Smeared as traitors by the Saudi media

State media in Saudi Arabia have branded the women as traitors, and 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.

Amnesty International firmly opposes all forms of Islamophobia and condemns any and all acts of white supremacist racism and violence against Muslim communities.

Learn more about the criminalized women human rights defenders and what you can do to help.

Note: When you take action, an email will be sent to the government of Saudi Arabia including the email address you provide. Other details you provide such as your name and country will be processed in line with Amnesty International’s privacy policy.



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