Saudi Arabia: Protect don’t prosecute women’s rights activists

6 NOVEMBER 2013 UPDATE: On 14 July 2013, Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni filed their appeal with the appeals court. If the appeals court upholds the District Court's decision then the activists will be imprisoned while they prepare their final appeal. The appeals court has still not issued an official decision and Wajeha is still being pressured by the government not to participate in human rights advocacy such as the right to drive campaign on 26 October. Please continue to call on the Saudi authorities listed below to overturn the activists' prison sentences and travel ban.

Equality Now has just issued Action Update 31.6 Saudi Arabia: Protect don’t prosecute women’s rights activists. On 15 June 2013, two women’s rights activists, Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni, were convicted of the Islamic Sharia law offence of Takhbib, or incitement of a wife to defy the authority of her husband. They were charged because of their support of a Canadian woman and her children, who had allegedly been abused by the woman’s Saudi husband. While absolved of the charge of trying to help the woman and her children escape, Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni were convicted of “supporting a wife without her husband’s knowledge, thereby undermining the marriage.” The District Court in Al-Khobar in Saudi Arabia sentenced them to 10 months in prison and banned them from leaving the country for two years following completion of their prison terms. Saudi activists have questioned whether the travel ban and the unwarranted prison terms are related to their long-term human rights work, which includes attempting to overturn the ban on women drivers, rather than to the alleged offense. Wajeha Al-Huwaider and Fawzia Al-Oyouni are appealing their sentences. They have 30 days from sentencing in which to do so.

Please join us in urgently calling on Saudi authorities to overturning the activists’ prison sentences and travel ban. Also, ask the Saudi authorities to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally expunge all charges against them;
  • Institute, in consultation with women’s rights defenders, concrete measures to protect women at risk of and subjected to domestic violence;
  • End the male guardianship system to remove discrimination against women and girls, including in their access to justice, safety, education and employment, and the ability to make their own life choices; and
  • Protect and promote the right of human rights defenders to peacefully advocate for human rights.

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