Peaceful Protest is not a Crime
In 2018, some of the most prominent women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia were arrested solely for their peaceful activism in support of justice and equality.
In May 2018, authorities in Saudi Arabia detained University of British Columbia graduate Loujain al-Hathloul. In June, they arrested Maya’a al-Zahrani and Nouf Abdulaziz. In early August 2018, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sada were detained.
They were amongst a broader group of women human rights defenders arrested in a sweeping wave of arrests in 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 have been charged with bogus offenses. Most have been conditionally released but face strict bail conditions that prevent them from continuing their activism or traveling outside Saudi Arabia. Some remain on trial; others have been convicted. The activists who have been released from prison face a heightened threat of harassment and violence.
On December 28, 2020, Loujain al-Hathoul was convicted of terrorism-related offences and sentenced to five years and eight months in prison. She was released from prison on February 10, 2021. Loujain has been released, but she is not free. She is subject to three years probation which prevents her from continuing her activism. She is banned from travel outside Saudi Arabia for five years. She appealed her conviction and remains on trial while her appeal is heard by the court. Loujain may have been released from prison, but she is far from free.