Arrested in 2021, she receives the longest known sentence for a women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia.
Salma al-Shehab34 years old, mother of two children who studied at University of Leeds in the UK was discontinued in January 2021.
The reason is that she called for reforms and the release of activists ahead of her trip to the kingdom.
Shehab’s Instagram account describes her as a dental hygienist and medical educator. She is in her final year of doctoral studies. student at the University of Leeds Medical School and Lecturer at Princess Nourah University in Riyadh.
She was arrested because of her social media activity which was reported using a crime reporting app called “kollona Amn” or “we are all safe” (the Guardian reported).
This app is used by the Saudi government to control dissent. As the human rights group presented that the situation of women’s rights is getting worse contrary to Saudi claims.
An anti-terrorism court accused Shehab of supporting these activists and disturbing public order by publishing false rumours.
Activist tweets are dissent against the kingdom’s hegemony
Salma’s Twitter account has 2,700 followers, which had been inactive since her arrest in January last year, but in the last week of July she tweeted and retweeted several tweets calling for reforms and the release of activists and intellectuals.
After the lifting of the driving ban for women in 2018, a group of prominent women’s rights activists, including Lujain al-Hathloul was detained and later charged with crimes against the state.
Saudi Arabia says women’s rights are now entrenched in the kingdom, but Salma’s arrest tells a different story.
This is not just Salma’s story but that of many activists working for change. To name some prominent Loujain women’s rights activists and dissident journalist jamal khashoggiwho was killed in October 2018.
Loujain continues to face restrictions despite his release.
As reported by ALQSTa UK-based group, and Freedom House, a US-based human rights group, Shehab was initially sentenced to six years in prison, which was increased to 34 years , as well as a 34-year travel ban.
This sentence was described as “odious” by Bethany al-Haidari, Saudi case officer at the Freedom Initiative.
Bethany said many young women were being held by the state at the same time as Salma’s arrest.
Lina al Hathlul, ALQAT’The communications officer and Loujain’s sister, said the sentence made it clear how the kingdom’s authorities remained “determined to severely punish anyone who freely expresses their views”.
Furthermore, she told the BBC: “The release of Loujain al-Hathloul and other women’s rights activists came in response to sustained international pressure. However, as the spotlight on Saudi Arabia gradually faded, authorities returned to their usual pattern of repression.
The activist who pleads for women’s rights not to be criminalized, these activists are accused of dissent!
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