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Saudi Arabia: Two feminist activists remain in jail while a third activist is released

2017-04-26

The Guardianship system in Saudi Arabia has been used to jail women who refuse to be ruled by the male members of their families. In the past two weeks, three feminist activists have been arrested under this system and jailed, and only one of them was released.

On 15 April 2017, Saudi woman human rights defender Mariam Al-Otaibi posted on her Twitter page the following tweet: “I will not go back to hell again even if I lose my life ..
Not only that, but Al-Ras police must be held accountable for plotting with my brother and father and direct conspiracy charges that are unfair and unjust ...”

Al-Otaibi was heavily involved in the campaign (#IAmMyOwnGuardian) to end the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia and had sought protection from her family. See http://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1501

Subsequently, on 19 April 2017, Al-Otaibi was arrested after her father filed a complaint against her for being absent from the house, using the Guardianship system. She decided to move to the capital Riyadh to work there and be independent in her life, but the Guardianship system can prevent her from doing so. According to the latest reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), she was transferred to the women’s section of Al-Malaz prison in Riyadh.

On the other hand, Dina Ali Lasloom, according to a reliable source, is still detained in a prison for women under the age of 30, called the Girls' Care House in Riyadh.

On 13 April 2017, Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman, was reportedly deported from the airport in the Philippines against her will and returned to Saudi Arabia. She arrived in Manila airport from Kuwait en-route to Australia, where she intended to file for asylum to escape a forced marriage according to some reports. 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.

On 18 April 2017, women’s rights activist Alaa Al-Anzi, a 23-year-old medical student, was released after spending seven days in prison for her solidarity with Lasloom. Alanzi was supported by women who had been subjected to violence. She was among those who responded to the call by activists on the Internet to meet Lasloom at Riyadh airport and ensure her safety.

GCHR calls on the Saudi government to immediately and unconditionally release women’s rights activists Mariam Al-Otaibi and Dina Ali Lasloom, and calls on the authorities 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.

GCHR calls on the Saudi government to:

  1. Release both feminist activists Mariam Al-Otaibi and Dina Ali Lasloom from prison and stop directing any form of harassment against them;
  2. Abolish the male-guardianship restrictions enforced on women citizens so they can enjoy their freedom of movement and access to travel documents in addition to the choice of residence and work;
  3. Drop all charges against Alaa Alanzi and any individuals who were involved in supporting and protecting Dina Ali Lasloom from potential family abuse; and
  4. 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.

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.