11/27/2019, 09.57
SAUDI ARABIA
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Riyadh, new repression of dissent: nine intellectuals and writers arrested

Alqst reports a campaign of arrests, with raids on private homes in Riyadh and Medina. Computers and mobile phones seized. Other people targeted by the authorities. "Shocking" and "vast" repression because it affects people who have "quit" their activism some time ago.

Riyadh (AsiaNews) - The vast majority of dissident personalities and critics of the leadership in power in Saudi Arabia is now silenced. According to the independent NGO Alqst, in the context of a new campaign of repression launched in mid-November, security forces arrested nine intellectuals and writers. The authorities carried out a series of raids on private homes in Riyadh and Medina, seizing computers and mobile phones.

In the note, Alqst activists say they have information that other people have also ended up in prison. However, at present there are still no official confirmation of their names and for this reason they have not been made public.

The profiles of the imprisoned persons are distinguished, to a certain extent, by those arrested in the past. "This latest wave of arrests is particularly shocking - says Josh Cooper, deputy director of Alqst contacted by L’Orient-Le Jour - mainly because most of the people arrested have put an end to their activism for many years." This suggests, he adds, "that we are facing a very large campaign of repression".

The Saudi activist Hala al-Dosari reports that "most" of the people detained "were engaged in public debate" during the period of the Arab revolts, between 2011 and 2013. Fouad al-Farhan was arrested "for his intellectual work ", while Souleiman al-Nasser" for the opinions expressed ".

According to Ali Adubisi, director of the European-Saudi Organization for Human Rights, "the Saudi authorities want to make sure that nothing can happen in the future. Anyone who has written or reacted in favor of the 2011 event [the Arab Spring] or in favor of human rights is a possible goal ”.

Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute Sunni monarchy, based on a Wahhabi fundamentalist view of Islam.

Over the past two years, the Crown Prince’s social reforms included granting women the right to drive cars and to attend sporting events in designated areas of stadiums.

However, the authorities have also cracked down on senior officials, business people, activists and critical voices, most notably in the Jamal Khashoggi affair, raising questions about the real extent of change.

According to various NGOs and international activists, the fact that the Saudi authorities think they can continue to arrest and repress intellectuals and dissidents "with complete impunity" is a direct consequence of the lack of accountability on the part of the international community. At a time when the economy is opening up to the outside and social reforms (some and partial) are being introduced, the Riyadh leaders are convinced that the violent repression of dissent and criticism is less of a sensation.

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