“Like the dozens of clerics arrested in 2017, the women’s rights advocates arrested in 2018, and the 14 activists arrested in April 2019 – these writers arrested over the past few days are the latest civil society members to be targeted.”
In a new report by London-based Saudi human rights group ALQST, Saudi Arabia has been documented to have arrested and detained at least 8 activists, mostly intellectuals and writers, amidst the kingdom’s growing crackdown on dissent.
Taken from their homes in Riyadh and Jeddah last week by plain clothed policemen, ALQST has reported that the reasons given behind their arrests are still unclear. According to the human rights group, this is a part of a wider campaign by the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to detain anyone critical of the government. Yahya Assiri, ALQST’s director, stated:
Some people may be asking why these arrests are taking place now, but in truth they reflect a harsh crackdown on Saudi civil society that has been ongoing for years. Like the dozens of clerics arrested in 2017, the women’s rights advocates arrested in 2018, and the 14 activists arrested in April 2019 – these writers arrested over the past few days are the latest civil society members to be targeted.”
The activists and writers arrested are said to be Bader Al-Rashed, Sulaiman Al-Saikhan Al-Nasser, Waad Al-Mohaya, Musab Fouad Al-Abdulkarim, Abdul Majid Al-Balawi, Abdulaziz Alehis, Abdulrahman Monthly, and Fouad Al-Farhan. Their exact whereabouts and conditions remain unknown as of now.
Despite the growing accusations of its severe human rights abuses, the Saudi government continues to deny any wrongdoing. Stating that the state currently does not hold any political prisoners, Saudi claims that the ‘monitoring’ of activists are simply a part of ensuring peace in the kingdom. Public protests, public criticisms, political parties, and labor unions are all still banned in Saudi Arabia.
Last year’s murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi state, orchestrated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, still remains painfully clear to those who dare voice opposition to the human rights abuses committed by the state: absolutely no criticism is allowed in the kingdom, with deadly results if done. ALQST director Assiri stated:
With these latest arrests, the Saudi authorities are showing once again that nobody is safe. It is clear that the international community must apply much more pressure for these violations to stop.”
As Saudi Arabia continues to move with impunity in regards to its imprisonment of political activists as well as its leadership role in the war in Yemen – now being called the largest humanitarian disaster in the world – it remains to be seen whether Saudi will ever be held to account for these severe human rights violations.