The Portuguese Left Bloc in Parliament Condemns the Ongoing Arbitrary Arrest of Women’s Rights Activists in Saudi Arabia

On May 21, the Bloco de Esquerda (The Left Bloc) passed a “condemning vote” in parliament related to the Saudi Women Human Rights Defender’s Arrest. The instrument specifically details the ordeal of Samar Badawi, Nassima Al-Sadah and Loujain Alhathoul who were arbitrarily arrested, detained and sentenced in manner that were in breach of a number of international human rights norms.

The women were arrested in 2018, after the driving ban was abolished in the Saudi Arabia. The move is seen as government reprisal against women’s human right’s activism. Samar Badawi in particular has been a vocal government critic, and has previously challenged the Saudi regime by attempting to register to vote and by driving her car (before the ban on women driving was lifted). She has been jailed multiple times for her activism and continues to be persecuted by the authorities to this day.

It is also not the first time that the Left Bloc has condemned Saudi Arabia for its human rights violations. Another example was in 2016 when Portuguese political party condemned the kingdom of Saudi Arabia over the worrying increase in the number executions that had recently spiked in the country. In this condemnation, the Left Blok also highlighted the assassination of Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite religious leader of Saudi Arabia.

The condemnation also generally denounces Saudi Arabia’s system of male guardianship, where the brunt of the authority’s callous persecution is targeted toward the very women who challenge its legitimacy. The “political reform” that occurred during 2018 was merely a smokescreen to appease the international community into some semblance of improving their human rights record. In reality, women continue to have to ask permission from a male relative to in order carry out a vast array of activities such as getting married, travelling or even exiting prison.

Amnesty International marked the two year anniversary of the activists’ arrest in an article, detailing the names of Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Amal al-Harbi, Dr Ruqayyah al-Mharib, Shadan al-Anezi, Dr. Abir Namankni, Dr Hatoon al-Fassi and an additional anonymous activist. Furthermore the organization also called upon Saudi Arabia to “immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience and human rights defenders solely detained in connection with their peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression, association and assembly.”

The vote of condemnation concludes with the unequivocal rejection of Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations committed against these female activists and their families. MP Edite Estrela who is a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said that she will forward the message to the Equality Commission. ADHRB joins the Left Blok in its condemnation and call for the immediately release of all political prisoners and individuals detained in connection to their peaceful exercise of their freedom of expression, association and assembly.

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