Middle Eastern states, China engaged in 'politically motivated imprisonment of women': US Senators

Middle Eastern states, China engaged in 'politically motivated imprisonment of women': US Senators
A resolution criticising Middle Eastern countries and China was brought forth in the US Senate. Another, on China's treatment of Uighur and other women from Xinjiang minorities, was later introduced in the House.
3 min read
13 August, 2021
One resolution was brought forth in the Senate, the other, in the House [OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP/Getty]

Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China have come under fire in the US Congress in recent days, accused by lawmakers of unfairly holding women in detention.

All five countries were criticised in a resolution brought forward by Democratic lawmakers on Saturday, with Senate Foreign Relations Committee chief Bob Menendez being the lead sponsor.

Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Ben Cardin are among eight others named as co-sponsors.

The motion says it is concerned with the "politically motivated imprisonment of women around the world" and urges their "immediate release".

It has been now sent to the Foreign Relations Committee for consideration.


The resolution mentions many women who it says have been subjected to arbitrary detention, including in the five countries mentioned.

Egypt is referenced as having "attempted to quash dissent by jailing and abusing human rights defenders".

Sanaa Seif is mentioned by name, and the resolution says she was "detained" as she lodged a "complaint" with the Public Prosecutor.

This was said to be about a "violent assault" she experienced outside a prison in Cairo where her activist brother is held.

The senators claimed Iran had "arrested and imprisoned environmentalists" at the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and has used "torture" as well as "threats of sexual assault" against them.

China, meanwhile, was called out for its "brutal campaign to suppress political dissent and vibrant ethnic minority communities".

In specific, practices including sexual and reproductive violence, including "coerced abortion", plus a stringent monitoring system used against the Uighurs were raised.

An academic specialising in Uighur culture, Rahile Dawut, who was awarded the Courage to Think Award in 2020, "has been held incommunicado since her disappearance" almost four years ago.

The resolution calls on Washington to bring up specific instances of women subject to political detainment "in all its interactions with foreign governments" and push for them to be set free without delay.

Other countries, including Belarus and Vietnam, are also criticised in the motion.

Later, on Tuesday, a resolution was brought forth in the US House, the lower chamber of Congress, focusing on China's treatment of Uighur and other women from Xinjiang province Muslim minorities.

Lead sponsor Congresswoman Jackie Speir, a House Armed Services Committee member, was joined by six other Democratic co-sponsors, and the motion has been sent to the chamber's Foreign Affairs Committee for consideration.

It too references reproductive violence and detention against Uighur women, urging China to end these, and asking US President Joe Biden to act on rights violations facing women in China who are from minorities.