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Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist jailed for 11 years

  • May 3, 2024
  • 2 min read
Saudi Arabian women’s rights activist jailed for 11 years

Human rights advocates have condemned an 11-year prison sentence given to a Saudi Arabian fitness instructor and women’s rights activist by a terrorist court. Manahel al-Otaibi was convicted of charge related both to clothing choices as well as expression of her views online, Amnesty International and ALQST both said.

The organisations also called for an end to the country’s guardianship system. Saudi diplomates told the UN that she had been found guilty of “terrorism offences.” But a letter from the kingdom’s mission in Geneva confirmed that the 29-year-old’s trial had concluded with her convicted in January, providing no further details about the case.

Dozen of people, especially women, had been locked up in Saudi Arabia over the past two years in connection with social media post.

Amnesty International and ALQST, a London-based Saudi rights organisation said that Manahel al-Otaibi had been an early supporter of the economic and social reforms enacted by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after he was declared heir to the throne in 2017 by King Salman, his father.

Two years later she told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle that she now felt free to wear whatever she wanted and express her opinions, explaining that her behaviour had been “based on what the crown prince has said… that I have the right to choose what I want to wear, as long as it is respectable.”

In November 2022, she was arrested on terrorism charges following a crackdown on online dissent.

ALQST reported that she was initially accused of violating the Anti-Cyber Crime Law. This includes “opposing the laws relating to women, such as the male guardianship system and the hijab law”; “participating in several hashtags opposing these laws”; “having several photos and video clips in indecent clothes on [social media] accounts”, and “going to the shops without wearing an abaya, photographing this, and publishing it on Snapchat”.

Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system give a woman’s father, brother, husband, or even son the authority to make crucial decisions on her behalf including marriage, divorce, or children.

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