RIYADH (Dispatches) – Saudi Arabia has released two prominent women’s rights activists held in detention for nearly three years, a rights group has confirmed.
“Human rights defenders Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah have been released following the expiry of the sentences against them,” ALQST for Human Rights said in a tweet on Sunday.
The activists were arrested in August 2018 as part of a then widening regime crackdown against peaceful dissent.
Most of those imprisoned, estimated to be in the dozens, campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions.
Badawi was among the first women who signed a petition calling on the regime to allow women to drive, vote and run in local elections.
She is also the sister of Raif Badawi, a prominent human rights campaigner, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014.
Al-Sadah, from the restive Shia-majority Qatif province, has also campaigned for the right to drive and to abolish the guardianship system. She was a candidate in the 2015 local elections which saw women run in elections for the first time.
Her name was ultimately removed by authorities.
Some of the women’s rights activists arrested in 2018 include Eman al-Nafjan, Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Aisha al-Manea, Ibrahim Modeimigh and Mohammed al-Rabea.
Saudi Arabia overturned the world’s only ban on female motorists on June 24, 2018. However, paradoxically enough, the lifting of the prohibition was followed by a sweeping crackdown on prominent women’s rights activists, who had staunchly advocated for the right to drive.