Saudi woman arrested over social media posts promoting reform

Saudi woman arrested over social media posts promoting reform
A 29-year-old Saudi woman was arrested last November for tweets and Snapchat posts that pushed for an end to male guardianship laws.
2 min read
31 May, 2023
Manahel al-Otaibi was arrested in November 2022 [Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty-archive]

A women’s rights activist in Saudi Arabia has been arrested and jailed by Saudi authorities over tweets and Snapchat posts that demanded more fundamental rights.

Manahel al-Otaibi, a 29-year-old fitness instructor and artist, was arrested in November 2022, The Guardian reported on Tuesday. She was detained on multiple charges, including calling for the end of the kingdom’s strict male guardianship rules by tweeting the hashtag #EndMaleGuardianship.

Both Manahel and her sister Fouz al-Otaibi were also accused by Saudi authorities of not being dressed 'decently'. Fouz was able to escape Saudi Arabia before being arrested. 

A third sister, Maryam, was apprehended and detained for protesting against the oppressive guardianship laws, but was set free in 2017.

Under Saudi law, every woman must have a male guardian to make critical decisions on her behalf. This includes employment, applying for a passport, and obtaining family records. Women who are travelling abroad must be accompanied by a male guardian, and cannot even serve as legal guardians of their own children. 

Saudi women activists have been able to push for some, limited freedoms in the country, including the right to drive.

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The Saudi government has clamped down heavily on Twitter users criticising the country over the past few years, especially since Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman seized power in 2017. 

Some have been sentenced to decades in prison for their tweets – including Salma al-Shehab, a Leeds University student who was sentenced to 34 years in jail for following and retweeting dissidents and activists.