Saudi Women's Rights Activists Labeled 'Traitors' as Crackdown Escalates
Saudi Arabia has widened its crackdown on womenâs rights activists, bringing the number of arrests up to 11 people, according to human rights groups.
Since the sweep began on May 15, the detained activists, most of whom are women, have been branded âtraitorsâ by pro-government news outlets and social media accounts, according to Human Rights Watch. Over the weekend, several state-linked newspapers published the names and photographs of those detained in what rights groups dubbed a âsmear campaignâ.
Those arrested reportedly include prominent womenâs rights defenders who have long advocated for ending the ban on women driving, among them, Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Nafjan, along with Mohammed al-Rabea, an activist, and Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh, a human rights lawyer. They may face charges for âsuspicious co ntact with foreign partiesâ and undermining âstability,â according to the Presidency for State Security, an office which reports to the king.
Since the kingdom is expected to soon lift its prohibition on women driving, rights groups said the motivation behind the escalating arrests remains unclear.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, drew international plaudits last year when they announced the ban on female drivers would end on June 24.
But now international outrage over the arrests threatens to derail the crown princeâs image as liberalizer.
âThe crown prince, who has styled himself as a reformer with Western allies and investors, should be thanking the activists for their contributions to the Saudi womenâs rights movement,â Sarah Leah Whitson, HRWâs Middle East director said in a statement. âInstead, the Saudi authorities appear to be punishing these womenâs rights champions for promoting a goal bin Salman alleges to support â" ending discrimination against women.âSource: Google News Saudi Arabia | Netizen 24 Saudi Arabia