Saudi Arabia has sentenced the Women’s’ rights campaigner Salma al-Shehab to 34 years in prison. Washington, along with loads of other political and rights organizations, expressed concerns over the tough verdict easily issued for social media activism.
In regards to a 34-year jail term, Washington has expressed serious concerns in a notice to Riyadh. Salma al-Shehab, a campaigner for female issues, has received the punishment, the American Department of State explained.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price voiced serious concerns about the punishment to the Saudi authorities. Salma al-Shehab has been on trial for her Twitter activism, aiding the critical voices on social media.
“We have made the point to them that freedom of expression is a universal human right to which all people are entitled,” Ned Price asserted. She further explained that no individual, party or group shall ever be questioned or trialed for seeking the basic right to freedom of expression.
A call for clarification is yet to be answered by the Saudi diplomatic office in Washington. Shehab was sentenced to 34 years in prison besides receiving a 34-year travel restriction by a Saudi court earlier in August for her comments. The judgement was initially made known to the public by the human rights organization The Freedom Initiative in the US capital.
According to the organisation, this is the heaviest jail sentence ever handed out to a Saudi campaigner for female issues. Shehab is a PhD student at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom and has two children.
Shehab, a member of the Shiite Muslim minority in the monarchy, was imprisoned early last year. Few days before she was scheduled to go back to Britain, she was imprisoned while on holiday in her hometown.
Salma al-Shehab; Not Unprecedented
Disputes over women’s issues and a brutal assassination of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul have strained relations between the Riyadh and Washington during the years.
According to the U.S. intelligence services, Saudi Crown Prince, the actual ruler of the country, was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder. Khashoggi spent several years writing for the Washington Post while living in the United States.
Saudi Arabia disputes the charge. President of the United States received flak for traveling to Saudi Arabia two months ago. Joe Biden said that he reminded Mohammad bin Salman that he deemed him accountable for Khashoggi’s death during the meeting. “He basically said that he was not personally responsible for it,” Biden said of the Bin Salman’s feedback during their visit. “I indicated that I thought he was.”
while running for office during the presidential campaigns, US president had said that the assassination of Khashoggi should make the country a “pariah” on the international scene. Biden later said he had no regrets about his remark, while he clearly shifted policies over Riyadh.
Khashoggi had been exiled in the United States on his own terms. Hatice Cengiz, the late journalist’s fiancée, tweeted a picture of the fist bump and stated that Khashoggi would have said: “Is this the accountability you promised for my murder? The blood of MBS’s next victims is on your hands.”
The new approach by Washington towards the Saudi crackdown on activists and dissidents occurs while Biden’s visit seemingly failed to normalized the mutual ties. Washington’s energy concerns, however, is expected to moderate Biden’s positions against the kingdom.
Salma al-Shehab may be the new victim of global self-interest approach in regards with Saudi Arabia. In 34 years, things may be subject to drastic changes.