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Saudi Arabia: Free Dina Ali Lasloom and repeal the Guardianship System

2017-04-14

On 13 April 2017, Dina Ali Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman, was reportedly deported from Philippine airport against her will. Lasloom arrived in Manila airport en-route to Australia, where she intended to file for asylum to escape a forced marriage. She posted a video of herself requesting help for fear of being killed by her family, after the authorities in Manila airport confiscated her passport. Meaghan Khan, a woman passenger from Canada, met Lasloom while she was waiting for her own flight in the airport and gave a detailed statement on the brutality of the deportation process. Activists on social media circulated Lasloom’s video and pictures under the hashtag #SaveDinaAli.

The Saudi Embassy in the Philippines posted a statement describing the incident of Lasloom’s forced deportation as a family matter. Several Saudi citizens posted an online call to meet Lasloom upon her arrival to Riyadh in an effort to assure her safety.

No information was available from the Saudi authorities as to the whereabouts of Lasloom after her arrival, but sources stated that she is held at the Correctional Facility for Women in Riyadh while further procedures are being taken by the authorities in her case. No information was available in relation to her physical or mental wellbeing. She is at risk of legal sanctions under the charge of “disobedience” because of her attempt to escape from her guardian. Correctional Facility for Women

Alaa Alanzi, a 23-year-old medical student who is known for supporting the rights of women subjected to violence, responded to the online call to meet Lasloom at Riyadh airport and to ensure her safety. She arranged to meet with another young man who responded to the same call at the airport but neither saw Lasloom emerge with the rest of the passengers from her flight. Alanzi then went to the security office to request information but she never returned home. A call has been made on twitter to #ReleaseAlaaAnazi.

Two days later, a statement was published in a local news agency stating that Riyadh police arrested Alanzi and the young man while they were taking pictures of the airport police and the police vehicles to document the arrival of the Saudi woman. The statement mentioned that the investigation revealed that Alanzi shared the pictures with a group of other concerned citizens to circulate on social media (a potential crime under the Saudi cybercrimes law). The statement also indicated that Alanzi is detained at a girls’ correctional facility in Riyadh and the young man is detained at the airport police station until the general prosecution office takes the necessary measures.

The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR) calls upon the Saudi government to abolish the guardianship system and fully respect the rights of women citizens to travel alone and to receive protection from violence. In addition, GCHR calls upon the Saudi government to respect and protect the right of Saudi men and women to advocate for human rights and support their community members against violence and violations.

In particular, the GCHR calls upon the Saudi government to:

  1. Immediately provide Dina Ali Lasloom with access to travel documents without restrictions on her departure and choice to seek asylum;
  2. Protect Dina Ali Lasloom from violence and conduct a thorough investigation in the case of abduction;
  3. Abolish the male-guardianship restrictions enforced on women citizens to enjoy their freedom of movement and access to travel documents;
  4. Drop all charges against Alaa Alanzi and any individuals who were involved in supporting and protecting Dina Ali Lasloom from potential family abuse; and
  5. Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

The GCHR respectfully reminds the authorities in Saudi Arabia that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognises the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals. We would particularly draw your attention to Article 5 (a): “For the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, at the national and international levels: (a) To meet or assemble peacefully”, Article 6 (c): “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters“  and to Article 12 (2): “The State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threat, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration.