#LetThemFly: Amnesty slams Saudi Arabia's punitive activist travel bans 'separating families'
Amnesty International has launched a new campaign to highlight Saudi Arabia’s use of travel bans as a tool of oppression against human rights activists, journalists, or critics of the government.
The campaign, called ‘#LetThemFly’, highlights the cases of 30 detained human rights campaigners who face additional travel bans once they complete their sentences.
#Saudi Arabian authorities are using arbitrary travel bans to punish, silence and control activists by locking them inside the country, or by locking in their families and relatives, in case of activists living abroad👨👩👧👧 https://t.co/sVwr2xSspL#LetThemFly✈️ @kingsalman ✊— Amnesty MENA (@AmnestyMENA) May 9, 2022
"The Saudi Arabian authorities’ arbitrary use of travel bans against activists and human rights defenders reflects a bleak reality in the country, where dissenting voices continue to be ruthlessly silenced while leaders speak of progressive reform," said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, according to a press release by the human rights watchdog.
Maalouf added that any activists who spoke out against the government or expressed their opinions about the state of human rights in the kingdom have become "victims of unlawful and punitive travel bans that effectively curtail their freedom of movement".
Amnesty International called on authorities to "stop this vindictive practice and start respecting the rights to freedom of expression and movement".
BREAKING - #SaudiArabia: Blogger @Raif_Badawi has been released after ten years in prison! RSF welcomes this decision and shares his relatives' relief. We remain mobilized to ensure that he will stay safe and be able to join his family in Canada despite his 10-year travel ban. pic.twitter.com/rGg5SSSHlN— RSF (@RSF_inter) March 11, 2022
Raif Badawi, a blogger who was imprisoned in 2014 for 10 years, is one of the most high-profile cases affected by the ban.
He was finally released from prison earlier this year but is banned from leaving the country for ten years.
Multiple rights organisations, including Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and Reporters Without Borders, have called on Saudi authorities to end his travel ban after already enduring a decade separated from his family.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the amazing mamas out there. ❤️— Lina Alhathloul لينا الهذلول (@LinaAlhathloul) May 8, 2022
It’s been almost 5 years now that I’ve been deprived of my mother and family. I miss you, I love you, I can’t wait for this injustice to end. #LiftIllegalTravelBans #MothersDay https://t.co/L4349S6Wis
Another high-profile case is Loujain Al-Hathloul, a prominent women's rights defender who was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison in December 2020 following what Amnesty called a "grossly unfair trial".
She was conditionally released in February 2021, but cannot leave the country for five years.
Her parents have been subjected "to an unofficial, unjustified, and open-ended travel ban since 2018", according to the human rights organisation.
Saudi Arabia is known for its extensive crackdown on journalists, activists, and critics of its political system.
Reporters Without Borders have ranked the Kingdom 166 out of 180 countries in its 2022 World Press Freedom Index.