Saudi anti-guardianship activist Maryam al-Otaibi freed from detention, marking 'feminist victory'

Saudi anti-guardianship activist Maryam al-Otaibi freed from detention, marking 'feminist victory'
Saudi women are celebrating a significant milestone in the campaign to end male guardianship as a rights activist was freed from detention without a guardian to bail her out.
2 min read
31 July, 2017
Maryam al-Otaibi was arrested in April for wanting to live independently []

Saudi women are hailing a historic victory after an anti-guardianship activist was freed from prison - without a male guardian to bail her out.

Maryam al-Otaibi was detained after she fled her father's house to try to lead an independent life in the kingdom where women need male permission for everyday actions, such as applying for a passport, travelling abroad and also leaving a prison.

The guardian is usually a father, spouse or brother.

Otaibi, an activist with more than 32,000 followers on social media, had taken part in a campaign against guardianship rules that saw people post on social media under the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian, send letters to King Salman and sign a petition.

However male members of her family disapproved, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

Otaibi moved to the capital Riyadh on her own but her father complained to police under the guardianship system and she was arrested in April, GCHR said.

Before her detention Otaibi tweeted: "I will not go back to hell again even if I lose my life .." and accused police in her home town of al-Ras of conspiring against her with her family.

During her 104 days imprisonment she was transferred to the women's section of al-Malaz jail in Riyadh, GCHR said.

When the news of her release broke on Sunday evening, Arab women on Twitter celebrated a significant step in the campaign to abolish male guardianship in what is thought to be the first time a women has walked from prison alone.

Prominent feminist author Mona Eltahawy hailed it a "feminist victory".

In April King Salman ordered government agencies to allow women to access government services without a male guardian's consent.

While some more changes are expected as part of the kingdom's 'Vision 2030' economic reform programme, conservative elites remain influential in forming and approving policy.