Saudi authorities have widened a crackdown on women’s rights advocates, detaining at least three more activists a month before the kingdom lifts its decades-old ban on women drivers, campaigners said Tuesday.
Saudi authorities on Saturday announced the arrest of seven people, mostly identified by rights groups as women who have long campaigned for the right to drive and to end the conservative Muslim state’s male guardianship system.
Amnesty International told that the number of detainees has risen to 10, including at least seven women, while the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and another Saudi activist said the number stood at 12.
“Saudi Arabian authorities cannot continue to publicly state they are dedicated to reform while treating women’s rights campaigners in this cruel way.”
The detainees include three generations of activists such as 28-year-old Loujain al-Hathloul – who was also held in 2014 for more than 70 days for attempting to drive from neighbouring United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia – and Aziza al-Yousef, a retired professor at Riyadh’s King Saud University.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights voiced concern that Hathloul, one of the most outspoken activists, was being held incommunicado, while other campaigners said the detainees were without any access to lawyers and their whereabouts were unknown.
Saudi government officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Without naming those detained, authorities have accused them of “suspicious contact with foreign parties”, providing financial support to enemies and attempting to undermine the kingdom’s “security and stability”.
Source Credit: Daily Mail