Saudi women's rights activist Manahel al-Otaibi 'cut off' from family contact

Saudi women's rights activist Manahel al-Otaibi 'cut off' from family contact
Manahel al-Otaibi was arrested in November for criticising Saudi's male guardianship law and hasn't had contact with friends or family since.
2 min read
21 February, 2024
Manahel al-Otaibi is considered by Amnesty International to be a political prisoner unjustly held by the Saudi regime [Getty]

A Saudi women's rights activist detained over social media posts has been out of contact with the outside world since November, Amnesty International said Wednesday, accusing Saudi authorities of "enforced disappearance".

Manahel al-Otaibi was arrested in November 2022 for social media posts challenging the country's male guardianship laws and requirements for women to wear the customary body-shrouding abaya.

The 29-year-old has not yet been convicted or sentenced but public prosecutors accuse her of leading a "campaign to incite Saudi girls to denounce religious principles and rebel against the customs and traditions of Saudi society", according to court documents seen by AFP.

Since November 2023, "prison and other officials have cut off all of her contact with her family and the outside world", Amnesty said in a statement.

Saudi authorities have "refused to provide her family with information about her whereabouts and wellbeing despite their repeated enquiries", the rights group said.

Amnesty's campaigner for Saudi Arabia, Bissan Fakih, said Otaibi "should never have been arrested in the first place, let alone subjected to enforced disappearance".

Otaibi appeared in front of judges in January last year and was then referred to the Specialised Criminal Court which was established in 2008 to handle terrorism-related cases but has been widely used to try political dissidents and human rights activists.

"Shortly before we lost contact with her, Manahel told us that she had been beaten violently by a fellow prisoner," Otaibi's sister, Fawzia, told Amnesty.

"I am worried about my sister's fate facing such an unjust court," Fawzia was quoted as saying.

Saudi Arabia is often criticised for not tolerating dissent. In 2022, decades-long prison sentences were handed down to two women who tweeted and retweeted posts critical of the government.