Five Months After the Lifting of the Driving Ban, Saudi Women’s Rights Activists Are Still Imprisoned and Reportedly Being Abused


It’s been nearly five months since Saudi Arabia officially lifted its ban on female drivers, allowing women to get behind the wheel in the Gulf country for the very first time. The move was made as part of the young Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims partly to diversify the economy by making the country more attractive to foreign investors. That plan has been thrown into disarray since the October 2nd state murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and now reports are emerging that some of the women’s rights activists who were imprisoned by the Kingdom are being abused in jail.

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According to the Washington Post:

Several women’s rights activists who have been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia for more than six months have been subjected to psychological or physical abuse while in custody, including sleep deprivation and beatings, according to four people familiar with the conditions of the activists’ detention.

Some of the abuse occurred during interrogations, during which several of the women were administered electric shocks or flogged, two of the people said, citing a witness account. Other women displayed what witnesses said were apparent signs of abuse, including uncontrollable shaking or difficulty standing, the people said.

Saudi Arabia rounded up multiple women’s rights activists over the summer, including the prominent Saudi blogger Eman al-Nafjan, the activist Loujain al-Hathloul, and Samar Badawi, who has campaigned against the country’s male guardianship law. Nearly all of them still remain imprisoned and incommunicado, even as the murder of Khashoggi leads to renewed calls for investigations into Saudi Arabia’s human rights record—renewed calls from everyone but President Trump, of course, who issued a statement today essentially excusing Khashoggi’s murder in favor of maintaining the U.S.-Saudi arms trade.


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