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.