In Saudi Arabia there is no civic space left to shrink

Trump’s BFF Saudi Arabia is not behaving well.

The UN has expressed concern over the continuing and “apparently arbitrary” crackdown on Saudi human rights activists after two more prominent female campaigners were arrested in the kingdom.

Samar Badawi, an internationally recognised activist, and Nassima al-Sadah, a co-founding member of Al-Adalah Center for Human Rights, were detained earlier this week.

At least 15 prominent activists have been held as part of a government campaign that began in the run-up to the much publicised lifting of the ban on women driving. Many other cases are thought to remain unreported.

That’s interesting – so the “run-up” to the removal of one violation of women’s rights consisted of trashing other women’s rights. How does that work? Is there some principle of nature that Saudi Arabia has to keep the number of women’s rights below a certain threshold, so that if it restores one it has to take away others? “You wanna be allowed to drive, bitches? Ok then, we’re busting some of you. Enjoy your rides.”

Khalid Ibrahim, executive director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, said the crackdown was unprecedented.

“When you describe the human rights situation in other countries you say the space for civil society is shrinking. In Saudi Arabia there is no civic space left to shrink. They are putting every peaceful voice behind bars,” he said. “If you are a human rights defender you will be treated worse than a criminal.”

But that, remember, is the majority-Muslim country that Trump thinks is just wonderful and a friend and not at all a source of theocratic murderers.

Badawi, a recipient of the International Women of Courage award, was a prominent figure in the call to end the driving ban for women, a landmark reform passed in June and credited to Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Al-Sadah was barred from standing as a candidate in local elections in 2015, the first year in which women were allowed to run.

Both al-Sadah and Badawi had challenged the country’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain permission from their fathers, brothers, husbands or even sons for a range of basic life decisions.

How dare they expect to be treated as adults and equals?

More than 30 human rights groups have warned of a growing climate of fear among female campaigners in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

In a recent open letter to the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, the groups wrote: “Saudi authorities, government-aligned media, and troll accounts on social media launched a public smear campaign and labelled women human rights defenders as ‘traitors’ and a ‘danger to Saudi society and national security.’”

I guess that explains why Trump admires them.

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