On Wednesday 27th March, around a dozen Saudi women’s rights activists who had been arrested last year finally had their day in court. While in detention, they have been tortured psychologically and physically, and subjected to sexual abuse.
The women’s rights activists were publicly smeared in the country’s media, which referred to them as traitors. Some even called for capital punishment. Their families were also harassed and banned from travel.
In court, they described to the judge what had happened. They were electrocuted. They were lashed. They were sexually abused. They were threatened with rape and murder. Some had even attempted suicide.
Even the elder human rights figures – the ones who are grandmothers – were subjected to sexual abuse. This isn’t in Saddam’s Iraq or Assad’s Syria. This is in Saudi Arabia, under the “reformist” Mohammad bin Salman.
In response to all the first person reports, all the public prosecutor could say was that all their reports of severe abuse and torture are “baseless spurious claims”, even as the marks of torture as still on the women’s bodies.
Conditional Release – What’s MBS Up To?
The day after the court appearances, three of the women who are on trial were released conditionally, though their trial still continues. More of the human rights activists are expected to be released in early April, but we’ll only believe it when it happens.
Some of the women were made to sign forced confessions – this was previously confirmed in the case of Loujain, who was threatened with rape and murder, and could be the case for the others too. Loujain was also forced to sign “requests for royal pardon” according to her sister, and it’s possible the others were too.
The most likely scenario is one we saw coming months ago: Conditional release, followed by conviction, followed by a royal pardon. Under this scheme, the women will remain under the mercy of Mohammad bin Salman and his security services. They’d be banned from travel and speaking to the media, surveilled 24/7, and perhaps confined to house arrest. But because they’re no longer in jail the world’s attention would fade, as the case is no longer seen as urgent.
Mohammad bin Salman would then think that he’s weathered the storm and gotten rid of the massive PR nightmare he inflicted upon himself thanks to his abject (yet brutal) idiocy – while also ending the women’s careers and using them as cautionary tales to scare women in his country from ever agitating for their rights again.
Will It Work?
Whether the plan of the brutal psychopath known as Mohammad bin Salman works or not is up to you. It’s up to you whether their release creates more energy and more pressure on the psychopath, or whether he gets his way.
Don’t let this pass. Mohammad bin Salman has arrested some of the bravest women & men on this planet. He smeared them in the media and had them tortured into signing forced confessions. And he wants to get away with it.
Anyone who works with MBS, who shakes his hands, who gives him a hug, who helps strengthen his grip on power is an enemy of women’s rights, an enemy of humanity, and a personal (yes, personal) enemy to me. It should be the same for you.