- Saudi Arabia's human rights record has come under intense scrutiny in recent months.
- Earlier this year, the country
- detained dozens of prominent women's rights activists — most without charge or access to communication.
- Award-winning campaigner Samar Badawi was arrested in August, which sparked
- Saudi Arabia
- In October, journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents,
- And in November,
Saudi Arabia's human rights record has come under intense scrutiny in recent months.
Earlier this year, the country detained dozens of prominent women's rights activists — many without formal charge or access to communication, and most of whom remain in custody.
The crackdown on rights activists came at a time when the country was preparing to lift its ban on women drivers.
In May, at least 15 prominent women's rights activists had been arrested, many who had been actively involved in the women's right to drive movement.
Saudi state media was quick to brand the activists as "traitors," and accused them of forming a "cell" in conjunction with foreign agents, Amnesty International said.
The government finally lifted the driving ban in June after decades of campaigning, though many of the activists still remain in prison.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been leading a push for modernization — cracking down hard on anyone that stands in his way
Critics of the driving ban say it was symbolic of Saudi Arabia's strong patriarchal society, an image which Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman has been trying to shift since ascending to the throne and instating his ambitious Vision2030 to completely overhaul the Saudi economy and society.
But along with his major push for modernization came a hard crackdown on anyone that stood in his way. The prince arrested hundreds of officials, billionaires, and members of the royal family in massive graft, netting him over $100 billion in settlements. And human rights campaigners and dissidents continue to be targeted.
In August, award-winning human rights campaigner Samar Badawi — was arrested along with several other rights activists.
In August, Canada's foreign ministry tweeted that it was ""gravely concerned" about the new wave of arrests in the Kingdom targeting women's rights activists, which sparked outrage from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia quickly retaliated with a series of intensifying diplomatic measures, which has since simmered down.
But Saudi Arabias human rights record was called into question once more following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has thrusted Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses back onto the agenda.
On October 2, the Washington Post contributor was murdered at the Saudi embassy in Istanbul after attempting to retrieve routine documents for his upcoming wedding to his Turkish fiance. His fiance waited outside for hours, but Khashoggi never returned.
Uproar has ensued in the weeks since his murder.
Global calls have been made for sanctions against Saudi Arabia and those involved in the gruesome murder plot; Several Saudi nationals have been barred from traveling to 26 Schengen countries; and continuous leaks by Turkish and US officials of recordings reported to detail the moments leading up to his death add mounting pressure to the Saudi royal court.
deniedshifted several times CIA assesments have reportedly determined that the prince directly ordered the assassination, accusations the Kingdom has swiftly rejected.
Activists told the Wall Street Journal in May that on the day of the announcement they received calls from the Saudi government banning them from speaking to the media or even praising the move.
"We were told: ‘Don’t talk. We don’t want you to comment positively or negatively. Don’t do it, don’t give interviews,"' an unnamed activist told the Journal.
Activists said the recent crackdown is aimed at preventing anyone from claiming credit for the government's decision to lift the ban.
"They put pressure on the government and the government is still angry, even if it has accepted that women will be allowed to drive,” another activist told the Journal. "Women will drive soon, and they don’t want anyone who can comment."
Saudi's Press Agency said the activists were arrested for having "dared to violate the country’s religious and national pillars through making suspected contacts in support of the activities of foreign circles." The statement also said those detained sought to "destabilize the Kingdom."