The government has been accused of cracking down on activists before Saudi women can legally drive in 5 weeks. The prosecution has accused them of illegally contacting foreign entities

Saudi activist Loujain Alhathloul

Saudi activist Loujain Alhathloul Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

7 high-profile activists, including several women, were arrested in the last few days in Saudi Arabia as part of what human rights groups have called a widespread attempt to curb feminist activism in the country. Activists have indicated that authorities have also arrested family members of activists in order to place pressure on them. In a few weeks, Saudi women will officially be permitted to drive in the country, and the government has initiated a series of reforms regarding the status of women.

The crackdown targeted central female activists who demanded that Saudi women be given the right to drive, including Loujain Alhathloul, who was arrested in 2014 for attempting to drive to the UAE. Human Rights Watch has accused the Saudi government of improper processes when it recently sentenced two activists to 14 years and 7 years, respectively, for organizing for women’s rights.

Many activists claimed they had been warned not to speak to media outlets, and Saudi authorities have accused the activists they arrested of illegal contacts with foreign nations. Prosecutors did not release further investigation details. The government has been targeting political organizations since the beginning of social reforms, in a move that many activists believe is to allow the government to control the rate of reforms in the kingdom. Authorities claim the efforts are designed to curb corruption.