Riyadh, new repressions: activist Hatoon al-Fassi arrested

A writer and scholar, the woman has spent a long time in prison in the past for the right to drive and to vote in municipal elections. She has not been heard from for days. Government media: detentions "affect the traitors who act for foreign embassies." UN appeal: "Facts that contrast with the campaigns for greater openness, free the arrested".


Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - While the world celebrates the reforms promoted by Saudi Arabia, in the Arab country, activists - men and women - human rights and civil liberties continue to be persecuted in the context of a campaign of repression that contrasts with move towards greater openings . The latest arrest emerged yesterday thanks to the denunciation of UK-based NGO Alqst, specialized in news concerning the Wahhabi kingdom.

Hatoon al-Fassi, (see photo) is one of the most passionate supporters of the right of women to drive and considered among the most authoritative personalities in the field of human rights and civil liberties of the ultraconservative Islamic kingdom. In the past she has led the battle for women to participate in municipal elections, a recently acquired right and in the face of repeated battles

As an activist, writer and researcher, she taught at the Saud University in Riyadh, deepening her studies in history and political science. Since June 21st there has been no more certain news of her whereabouts or wellbeing.

The Saudi kingdom, an absolute monarchy ruled by a fundamentalist view of Sunni Islam, has introduced a series of reforms in recent months, in the context of the "Vision 2030" program desired by 32-year-old Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs). One of the goals is to promote female employment.

The reforms are not just about the world of work: since June 24, the ten-year ban on driving for women has lapsed and the stadium of the capital has been opened to the representatives of the fair sex, who were able to attend the celebrations of the national holiday and football.

However, there are still severe limitations and the practice of silencing the voices of those demanding greater rights and freedoms within society continues. In particular, since last month there have been dozens of arrests of people "suspected" of entertaining "ties" with "foreign realities" or of providing financial support to "foreign enemies".

Saudi pro-government media have given ample space to detention, accusing those involved of "betrayal" and stamping them as "foreign embassy agents". To date, none of the persons arrested has been officially charged; activists are locked up in isolation cells and do not have contact with their families or lawyers.

Members of the United Nations have also intervened now, calling on the authorities in Riyadh to release activists, especially women. "In stark contrast to this much-vaunted moment of liberation for Saudi women - says a statement - women who fight for human rights are victims of large-scale arrests and detention throughout the country. This is a source of concern and perhaps a better indication of the attitude taken by the government towards women's rights ". "We request the urgent release - concludes the document - of all those who were detained while they were carrying out entirely legitimate activities".

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