Cases of women’s rights violations in Saudi Arabia is skyrocketing, which has made many related international bodies rebuke the Kingdom’s approach towards Saudi women.
Of all the nearly 37 million population in Saudi Arabia, a large portion ‘(more than 16 million) are women, which accounts for over 44 percent of the whole Saudi population. However, the Kingdom has always been under the harshest criticisms for the worst ways it treats women in the country.
This year so far has been full of stories of Saudi Arabi violating women’s rights in one way or another. One of the latest examples was the surprising sentence of a Saudi woman of 34 years in jail simply for Twitter activities.
Early in August, a Saudi appeals court increased the prison sentence of Salma al-Shehab, a Saudi doctoral student, from 6 years to 34 years for allegedly anti-Saudi tweets. This was in fact the longest sentence ever imposed on a Saudi woman for her peaceful online expressions on social media.
The move, as expected, was strongly condemned by many international organizations including the UN and the Amnesty International, as well as several human rights groups across the world. “Even for Saudi Arabia, the 34-year sentence imposed on al-Shehab for peaceful expression is preposterous,” said Sarah Yager, Washington director at Human Rights Watch.
“Saudi authorities clearly feel empowered to crush any dissent and Saudi women in particular. The United States, France, and other governments that have diplomatically embraced the kingdom should promptly and publicly condemn this ruling,” she further explained.
More Saudi shocks to human rights activists
Similarly, and only a few weeks after the unfair sentence for Salma al-Shehab, a court in Saudi Arabia again shocked human rights activists by sentencing another Saudi female to 45 years in prison over social media use.
According to last week’s report by rights group Dawn, a terrorism court convicted Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani of “using the internet to tear the social fabric” and “violating public order by using social media”.
Abdullah Alaoudh, director of research for the Gulf region at Dawn, said in this regard that “nothing in her court documents pertains to any violence or criminal activity,” he also noted that “the charges against her are really broad. They are using the counter-terrorism law and the anti-cybercrime law… that can criminalize any posting that is even remotely critical of the government,” he added.
Several other female activists have reportedly been detained in relation to social media posts since last year. Mr Alaoudh said he feared that they could also be handed lengthy prison sentences.
ALQST, a UK-based rights group, strongly condemned the new sentence against al-Qahtani and wrote in a tweet that the group “is gravely concerned about the 45-year prison term, based on tweets, handed down by the Specialised Criminal Court of Appeal to Nourah al-Qahtani. As feared, we are witnessing an alarming deterioration of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.”
Last but not least, in several video footages that quickly went viral on social media this Wednesday, Saudi security officials can be seen holding down women in black abayas while uniformed officers repeatedly lash them with leather belts and wooden sticks. One man is seen in the video, which is apparently filmed at an orphanage in the city of Khamis Mushayt, dragging a woman by her hair across a lawn as she screams. Other videos show Saudi officers chasing women through the orphanage and brutally shoving them to the ground.