Saudi Arabia Accused of Torturing and Sexually Harassing Women Activists

A woman holds a poster during the funeral for dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.
A woman holds a poster during the funeral for dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.
Photo: AP

Human rights campaigners are accusing Saudi Arabia of torturing several women’s rights activists using electrocution and flogging. The activists, who have been imprisoned since May, are also alleged to have been subjected to sexual harassment, according to Reuters.

Over a dozen women’s rights activists have been arrested over the last six months, most of whom fought to end Saudi Arabia’s guardianship laws, which require women to get permission from a male relative for decisions ranging from enrolling in school to obtaining a passport. The arrests “followed an earlier crackdown on clerics, intellectuals and activists in September 2017, in an apparent attempt to silence potential opponents of the country’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” reports Reuters.

In a statement released Tuesday, Amnesty International reported that according to “separate testimonies obtained by the organization, the activists were repeatedly tortured by electrocution and flogging, leaving some unable to walk or stand properly.” The statement continued, “In one reported instance, one of the activists was made to hang from the ceiling, and according to another testimony, one of the detained women was reportedly subjected to sexual harassment, by interrogators wearing face masks.”


Human Rights Watch released a similar statement alleging that “informed sources say that Saudi interrogators tortured at least three of the Saudi women activists detained beginning in May 2018.” Those sources allege torture and sexual harassment by authorities including “administering electric shocks, whipping the women on their thighs, and forcible hugging and kissing.”

The allegations of torture come amid outrage over the murder last month of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The CIA has reportedly concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing. In a statement, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director, said, “Only a few weeks after the ruthless killing of Jamal Khashoggi, these shocking reports of torture, sexual harassment and other forms of ill-treatment, if verified, expose further outrageous human rights violations by the Saudi authorities.”

Senior Staff Writer, Jezebel

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