Wave of arrests in Saudia Arabia
Saudi authorities arrested human rights defenders Issa Al-Hamid and Abdulaziz Al-Shubaili, who are members of the Civil and Political Rights Association in Saudi Arabia (ACPRA). Al-Hamid, arrested on 16th September 2017, was sentenced to 11 years in prison, and Al-Shubaili, arrested on 17th September, was sentenced to eight years, allegedly both were tried in connection to their work with ACPRA.
In August 2017, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights reported that human rights defenders Issa Al-Nukhaifi and Essam Koshak were brought to court over their human rights activities. They remain at Al-Ha'ir Criminal Prison in Riyadh, pending trial on 4th October 2017. Their cases were previously reported on the Monitor when they were arrested in December 2016 and January 2017 respectively. Koshak was interrogated for his tweets, including his support for the campaign to end the guardianship system for women, #IAmMyOwnGuardian. Al-Nukhaifi was charged with “insulting” the authorities and inciting public opinion against the rulers, as well as being in contact with suspected opposition figures. He was also charged with calling for the release of the many imprisoned members of the ACPRA.
In September 2017, the Saudi King announced that the ban on women drivers would be overturned, and that a plan must be put in place within a month to proceed to remove all restrictions on women driving by June 2018. In addition, women were allowed to enter King Fahd Stadium in Riyadh for the first time this week for national celebrations. Activists have been campaigning to allow women to drive under the Women2Drive campaign, and many have been arrested. However, there are still rules in the Kingdom which mandate women to be in the presence of a male guardian at all times, and many human rights defenders and activists have been arrested for taking part in the #IAmMyOwnGuardian campaign. In a statement, Human Rights Watch stated that:
“Now Saudi authorities should guarantee that women are allowed to drive on the same basis as men so that no Saudi women are deprived of benefiting from this reform”.
Saudi authorities have also been criticised for allowing state institutions and clerics to incite hatred and discrimination against religious minorities, says a new report from Human Rights Watch.
According to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, on 12th September 2017 authorities arrested academic and novelist Dr. Mustafa Al-Hassan and academic and activist Dr. Abdullah Al-Malki was kidnapped from his home. Al-Hassan is being held in solitary confinement in the prison in Al-Damam city without any access to his family or a lawyer and Al-Malki’s whereabouts were unknown as of 27th September. Al-Malki has published several books and articles in Saudi newspapers and websites, and is known for defending freedom of expression and other rights in the Kingdom.
Saudi clerics Salman Al-Awdah, Awad Al-Qarni and Ali Al-Omary were also detained in September. The three clerics had previously criticised the government but more recently kept silent or failed to publicly back Saudi policies, according to Reuters. It is not clear what charges have been brought against them and they remain in detention at the time of writing.
As writers and others are being arrested, they have also been prevented from writing opinion pieces, as Human Rights Watch reported. A prominent writer, Jamal Khashoggi, was reportedly banned by the royal family-owned publication, Al-Hayat, from writing regular opinion columns. In September, there were also reports of Al Jazeera’s content being restricted on Snapchat, according to Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.