Web Desk: At least 10 women’s rights activists are under interrogation including seven women and three men without any access to lawyers, according to people familiar with the arrests.
They are arrested due to the steady crackdown on perceived critics of the governments and come just a month before the ultra-conservative kingdom is set to lift the world’s only ban on women driving.
The activists were allowed to make just one phone call so that they can inform their worried relatives.
On May 15, police detained the 10 in the Riyadh and transferred them to the city of Jiddah.
According to activists, seven of those detained were involved in efforts to establish a non-government organization
(NGO) called ‘Amina’ that would offer support and shelter to victims of domestic abuse.
The arrests cast a pall over recent social openings being pushed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, including a historic decision to lift the world’s only ban on women driving on June 24. Amnesty International says the Prince promises of reform fall flat amid the intensifying crackdown on dessenting voices in the kingdom.
The arrested activists are, Loujain Al-Hathloul, Aziza Al-Yousef, Eman Al-Nafjan, Madeha Al-Ajroush, Aisha Al-Mana, Ibrahim Al-Mudaimigh, Hessah Al-Sheikh, Walla Al-Shubbar, Mohammad Al-Rabae and Abdulaziz Al-Meshaal.
The crackdown is happening as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged $100 million to a World Bank fund for women entrepreneurs. Then the kingdom issued its royal decree last year and announced that women would be allowed to drive in 2018, later on, the royal court warned the social activists to give any interviews to the media.
Recently, detained women are seen as icons of the Saudi women’s right movement and had called for an end to guardianship laws that given men final say over whether a woman can marry, obtain a passport or travel abroad.
The Interior Ministry claimed that the detained activists are being investigated for communicating with foreign entities, working to recruit people in sensitive government positions and providing money to foreign circles with the aim of destabilizing and harming the kingdom.