11 female social activists have appeared in court in Riyadh under unspecified charges, to be persecuted for the crimes they have committed through protesting for improved standards in Saudi Arabia. At this point, the court is releasing little information on the proceedings, and putting limits on who is able to report on the ongoing events. The country has recently come under fire for its treatment of people within the country, and their failure to follow the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights. OWP has previously spoken about the statement released by members of the United Nations, condemning the treatment of these prisoners, including torture and reducing basic rights. Many human rights activists have come out in an attempt to make changes to the policies and practices of the country, through a variety of ways such as protesting on social media, openly defying laws that were deemed as unfair such as the ban on women driving, being in contact with reporters despite the very private way Saudi Arabia usually operates in these situations, and attempts to “destabilize the kingdom.”
On Thursday, three of these women were released on temporary bail after their initial court appearance. At least one is safely at home with her family. Amnesty International has praised this result. However, there are still issues surrounding the temporary status of this bail and concerns around what may be happening to the other women who are still in custody. Throughout 2018 and up to the present day, the experiences of these women in detainment have included harsh forms of torture, and cruel punishment for the crimes they have been accused of committing. As this court case unfolds, some of the women have added to these stories by informing the court of the physical and sexual abuse that they faced, including threats of rape and death. Medical reports have been leaked corroborating aspects of these stories. Now, with the activists in court, there are concerns as to how this behaviour will continue or increase, and an expectation for the UN to respond in the best way they are able. The government has, of course, denied these claims, saying they are “simply wrong.”
This case is primarily private, with little information being officially released to the public. Despite this, more and more information is being found out by unnamed sources, reporters, and files that the court has chosen to release. It is central that these types of cases do not go ignored despite the limited information, as holding Saudi Arabia accountable for their abhorrent actions will ensure that social equality can be obtained by these brave women who are fighting for it and by those who follow in their footsteps.