SEVERE WX : Severe Thunderstorm Watch - Severe Thunderstorm Warning - Flood Advisory View Alerts

Rights groups slam 'smear campaign' against Saudi activists

Rights groups have slammed a "smear campaign" against Saudi women's rights activists who were arrested last week and ...

Posted: May 21, 2018 9:46 PM
Updated: May 21, 2018 9:46 PM

Rights groups have slammed a "smear campaign" against Saudi women's rights activists who were arrested last week and accused of treason by local media outlets close to the Saudi government.

Several Saudi media organizations named the detainees and accused them of plotting to "violate national unity," while one online newspaper showed pictures of the activists with the word "traitor" stamped on each of their faces.

The official Saudi Press Agency did not name the seven detainees but said they were accused of "suspicious contact with foreign entities to support their activities, recruiting some persons in charge of sensitive government positions, and providing financial support to hostile elements outside the country."

Those detained attempted to "breach (Saudi) social structure and mar the national consistency," SPA reported, quoting a state security source.

Saudi daily Al Jazirah's front page on Saturday ran with the headline: "You are damned and your treason is damned." The pictures of two prominent women's rights activists, Aziza al-Yousef and Loujain al-Hathloul, featured underneath.

The semi-official Okaz newspaper ran a report of the arrests with the headline: "No place for traitors among us."

The reports have sparked an outcry from rights groups and activists. "Saudi Arabian authorities and government-aligned media launched a public smear campaign last night to try to discredit six prominent detained women's rights defenders as 'traitors' following their arrest this week," Amnesty International said in a statement on Saturday. The name of the seventh activist detained has not emerged in the media.

"Saudi Arabian authorities cannot continue to publicly state they are dedicated to reform, while treating women's rights campaigners in this cruel way," said Amnesty International's Middle East Director of Campaigns Samah Hadid in a statement to CNN on Monday.

Some of those arrested were leading campaigners for women's right to drive in the kingdom. Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the activists arrested, is a well-known defender of women's rights and has campaigned against the driving ban.

She was previously detained in the United Arab Emirates in March and deported to Saudi Arabia, where she was held for a few days before being released, according to a source familiar with the case.

She was photographed alongside Meghan Markle, the new wife of Britain's Prince Harry, at a summit in Canada in 2016.

Aziza al-Yousef, another detainee named by rights groups and local media, is also a well-known campaigner for women's right to drive and for an end to the kingdom's male guardianship system.

The arrests came just over a month before Saudi Arabia was set to lift a ban on women drivers.

The ban's removal was hailed as part of sweeping reforms introduced by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his rapid rise to power. But some Saudis argue that that the reforms have been largely "cosmetic," and that the crackdown on human rights defenders are part of a wider campaign to consolidate power in the kingdom.

"(The arrests) have exposed the myth that Mohammed bin Salman is a revolutionary conducting a top-down transformation of Saudi Arabia," said Madawi al-Rasheed, a Saudi visiting professor at the London School of Economics. "There is an ongoing campaign to silence everybody in Saudi Arabia from religious scholars to intellectuals, lawyers, activists, teachers, women, men: everybody."

Saudi authorities did not respond to CNN's requests for comment.

The 32-year-old was elevated to Crown Prince nearly one year ago, and is seen by his detractors as a royal who has tried to expand his powers and doubled down on dissent.

Last November, the young Crown Prince shocked the kingdom by ordering the arrest of dozens of high-profile businessmen and members of the royal family in what Saudi authorities called an anti-corruption drive.

'Climate of fear'

Activists say the media campaigns against human rights defenders represents an "escalation" against activists that has promoted a "climate of fear."

"We are back to square one," Sydney-based Saudi activist and author Manal al-Sharif told CNN.

"We used to live in a police state; if you speak up you go to jail. And then there would be a defamation campaign against you, saying all sort of untrue things. Character assassination. We are seeing that same pattern again now," she added.

Sharif told CNN that after Saudi authorities announced plans to allow women to drive, they called her and asked her not to speak to the media about it.

"This is really, really shocking. I had much hope for the country," Sharif said. She said she had canceled an upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia out of fear for her safety.

Meanwhile, international human rights activists say they have taken it upon themselves to buoy Saudi activist causes.

"As the Saudi Crown Prince tours the world presenting himself as a 'reformer,' he is arresting the women's rights activists who refuse to accept his tokenism, leaving it to us to make their voices heard," Kenneth Roth, executive director at Human Rights Watch, wrote in a tweet.

"We're expecting more arrested because the state says the campaign is ongoing ... it's clear that they want to end the rights situation in Saudi Arabia completely," said Yahya Assiri, a London-based Saudi activist.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 39589

Reported Deaths: 1523
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin12703789
Ramsey5013230
Dakota247993
Stearns242919
Anoka2293110
Nobles16726
Olmsted116817
Washington116340
Mower9652
Rice8598
Scott7834
Clay59538
Kandiyohi5821
Blue Earth5102
Wright4925
Carver4171
Todd4022
Lyon3272
Sherburne3275
Freeborn2980
Watonwan2400
Steele2391
Benton2213
St. Louis19816
Nicollet17612
Martin1715
Cottonwood1370
Goodhue1328
Winona13115
Le Sueur1101
Pine1100
Crow Wing10912
Chisago1021
Otter Tail1001
McLeod940
Dodge920
Carlton880
Unassigned8738
Polk842
Chippewa791
Isanti760
Waseca710
Douglas660
Murray660
Itasca6512
Pipestone632
Meeker611
Morrison611
Faribault600
Becker570
Jackson550
Sibley552
Pennington520
Brown372
Renville362
Beltrami350
Wabasha350
Mille Lacs342
Rock310
Fillmore300
Yellow Medicine300
Houston280
Swift231
Norman210
Wilkin213
Redwood200
Cass192
Big Stone170
Grant170
Koochiching171
Roseau170
Aitkin150
Kanabec151
Wadena150
Marshall120
Pope120
Lincoln110
Mahnomen101
Clearwater90
Hubbard80
Lake60
Stevens60
Traverse60
Lac qui Parle40
Red Lake40
Kittson20
Cook10
Lake of the Woods00

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32533

Reported Deaths: 735
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk6827181
Woodbury326444
Black Hawk235558
Buena Vista172411
Johnson13638
Linn132382
Dallas129829
Marshall106319
Scott88310
Story8194
Dubuque77122
Pottawattamie75812
Wapello71231
Crawford6793
Muscatine67544
Sioux4880
Tama47329
Wright3881
Louisa36313
Jasper32917
Plymouth3275
Warren2971
Dickinson2823
Webster2524
Washington2479
Cerro Gordo2011
Hamilton1921
Boone1571
Clay1421
Allamakee1354
Clarke1343
Mahaska11817
Shelby1170
Clinton1151
Poweshiek1078
Carroll1041
Pocahontas1011
Bremer987
Franklin980
Des Moines942
Emmet910
Henry883
Cedar851
Hardin830
Taylor810
Cherokee791
Monona770
Floyd742
Marion740
Benton691
Guthrie694
Jones650
Osceola640
Sac640
Jefferson620
Iowa611
Buchanan601
Butler602
Humboldt571
Calhoun552
Hancock541
Harrison540
Lee542
Delaware531
Fayette520
Monroe517
Madison492
Lyon470
Clayton463
Mills430
Winneshiek430
Davis421
Palo Alto420
Mitchell410
Grundy400
Howard370
Jackson370
Kossuth370
Union360
Lucas314
Winnebago300
Chickasaw290
Greene290
Cass240
Ida230
Appanoose213
Van Buren210
Keokuk201
Page200
Unassigned200
Worth200
Adair170
Audubon161
Ringgold150
Decatur120
Montgomery102
Wayne100
Adams80
Fremont80
Rochester
Broken Clouds
67° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 67°
Mason City
Overcast
64° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 64°
Albert Lea
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 66°
Austin
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 70°
Charles City
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 66°
Heat Advisory in effect until 7pm
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Dave's Main 6:30 Weather 7/9

Image

Rochester fair food stands thriving

Image

Communicating with the deaf community during the Pandemic

Image

Reopening NIACC Safely

Image

Social Justice Program Gets Underway

Image

Group gathers to pray for racial justice

Image

Prep athletes eager to get back into the weight room

Image

Sean's 6pm Weather 7/8

Image

Bishop writes to ask for clemency for Dustin Honken

Image

Catch a ride to stay cool

Community Events