Saudi Arabia’s Crackdown On Women Activists Is Far From Over

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Two Saudi women who campaigned for lifting the women’s driving ban and the male guardianship system have been arrested.

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s efforts to introduce progressive reforms in Saudi Arabia made headlines after the conservative kingdom lifted the women’s driving ban – but in reality, women’s rights have still a long way to go in the country.

Most of the 17 activists who were arrested had campaigned for the lifting of the driving ban on women drivers, under the watch of the crown prince.

Adding to that list, two more women’s rights activists were recently arrested after the government launched a crackdown on activists, scholars and journalists, curtailing freedom of speech and a fight for rights in Saudi Arabia.

Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah, who had campaigned for women's right to drive and for lifting of the male guardianship system, were arrested according to the Human Rights Watch.

"The arrests of Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah signal that the Saudi authorities see any peaceful dissent, whether past or present, as a threat to their autocratic rule," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

Badawi, who is the sister of Raif Badawi, a writer and secular activist, was arrested on a charge of "insulting Islam through electronic channels" in 2012. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes, to be carried out over 20 weeks. 

In 2012, United States awarded Badawi with the International Women of Courage Award. She met Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama during the award ceremony, who congratulated her for inspiring other women.  

Sadah, the other activist who was arrested, belongs to the Shia-majority of the Qatif province. She was a candidate in the 2015 local elections after women were permitted to run and/or vote in municipal elections without male approval.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has successfully convinced his allies to fund his modern Saudi Arabia image, despite the fact that women have limited rights in the kingdom and need permission from male guardians to make decisions. But those who disagree and protest in hopes of removing this sexism are called traitors and imprisoned for simply practicing activism.

Suffice to say women’s rights still have no place in the crown prince's ambitious “Vision 2030.”

Thumbnail/Banner Image: STR, AFP, Getty Images

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