Saudi Arabia: New wave of arrests targeting human rights community must stop!


On 09 April 2019, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) received a list of at least 13 names of human rights defenders, including women’s rights activists, who are confirmed to have been arrested in Saudi Arabia this month. The Saudi authorities carried out a new wave of arrests of writers and social media bloggers who were previously engaged in public discourse on reforms.

Since 04 April, many Saudi activists and bloggers, including academics, have been tweeting intensively about this new crackdown. The international community is still struggling to reason with, put pressure on and hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its human rights violations. This includes the arbitrary arrest and torture of women human rights defenders, including prominent women’s rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, who has yet to be released on bail as expected yet. The Saudi authorities continue to ignore, deny and act with utmost impunity and intransigence. 

GCHR’s source (who must be kept anonymous for their safety) stated that “these arrests were orchestrated since February and linked to their support for the women activists’ families.” GCHR believes that Saudi Arabia is exerting every effort to shut down civic space, silence the human rights community and exterminate the feminist movement in the kingdom.

The list of names includes:

  1. Salah Al-Haidar, Aziza Al-Yousef’s son and a US citizen
  2. Bader Al-Ibrahim, Saudi-US citizen (writer & physician)
  3. Mohammed Al-Sadiq (writer)
  4. Thumar Al-Marzouqi (writer) 
  5. Khadijah Al-Harbi (feminist writer), the wife of Thumar Al-Marzouqi, pregnant 
  6. Fahad Abalkhail (an activist who previously supported the women driving)
  7. Abdullah Al-Dehailan (writer)
  8. Naif Al-Hendas (writer)
  9. Ayman Al-Drees (writer and translator)
  10. Moqbel Al-Saqqar (novelist)
  11. Abdullah Al-Shehri (lawyer)
  12. Redha Al-Bori (blogger and writer)
  13. Ali Al-Saffar (writer)
  14. Shaikhah Al-Urf, (fiminist wiriter) and the wife of the detained lawyer Abdullah Al-Shehri

Anas Al-Mazrou, a lecturer at King Saud university, has also been detained after posting a question in a public panel at Riyadh Book Fair last month on the whereabouts of the jailed human rights and women activists.

The newly-detained activists and human rights defenders are being held incommunicado, while their families remain without any contact with them and unaware of their whereabouts and/or the charges against them, to date.

GCHR will continue to advocate and support these human rights defenders, women’s rights activists and feminists; and will strive to advocate via different forums and on various levels for their release. At the same time, we would like to echo our previously stated recommendations and call on the Saudi authorities to:

  1. Immediately release all human rights defenders, including women’s rights defenders who have been detained since May 2018; unjustly put on trial after being subjected to severe torture and maltreatment, and were denied their right to justice and reparation among others;
  2. Immediately release the human rights defenders and women’s rights activists who have been targeted in the new wave of arrests starting on 04April; and
  3. Respect iits international commitments, acknowledge and put an end to human rights violations and take firm steps towards reforms, to begin with, of judicial and legal systems, and by putting human rights first towards a possible change.

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