Human Rights Watch accuses Saudi Arabia of targeting women's rights defenders



Human Rights Watch said that Saudi authorities arrested two human rights activists earlier this month and prevented others from traveling as part of an ongoing campaign targeting women's rights defenders, according to the international organization.

The authorities arrested the writer and activist, Nouf Abdel Aziz, on 6 June, after she expressed her solidarity with seven activists arrested in May.

Maia al-Zahrani is believed to have been arrested in May after she posted an online message saying Nouf had asked her to write about her if she was arrested. Human Rights Watch says the two camps were banned from any outside contact.

"It seems the Saudi government is determined to leave its citizens with no room to express solidarity with the activists jailed in the crackdown on the opposition," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Amnesty International.

Activists and diplomats say the wave of recent arrests is aimed at appeasing the hardline regime, which objects to reforms, and holds a message to activists not to raise demands that go beyond the "reforms" of the government.

The arrests were made for the first time weeks before the lifting of the ban on women driving in the country and renewed criticism of the approach taken by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to diversify the Saudi economy abroad.


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