After serving their sentences, Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah have returned to freedom. The two Saudi activists, arrested in 2018 along with other women in a wide-ranging campaign of arrests, were released on Monday. Their freedom came a few months after the release in February of Loujain al-Hathloul, the best-known figure in the battle for Saudi women’s rights.
Their release was not a political move, but simply due to the fact that their sentences had ended. Sadah, a writer and activist, held in solitary confinement in the Al-Mabahith prison since 2019, had been arrested for playing a leading role in defending the rights of the Shiite minority, who are marginalized and persecuted by the Sunni regime. Badawi, who was held in Dhahban prison, had been sentenced for her work supporting the rights of women to drive, vote and run for election and for her battle against the male guardian system.
Human rights organizations welcomed the news, while reiterating their criticism: “They should never have been jailed in the first place and deserve justice/compensation for their arbitrary detention,” commented Adam Coogle, deputy director of Human Rights Watch for the Middle East and North Africa.
Amnesty International agreed, and called on the authorities of the oil monarchy to “remove the travel bans on Nassima and Samar.” The request comes after Al-Hathloul, who spent more than 1,000 days in jail, was put on probation and is subject to a five-year ban on travel.
For Samar Badawi, her distress is far from over: her husband, Waleed Abulkheir, also an activist, remains in prison with a 15-year sentence, while her brother Raif, a well-known blogger and writer, has been punished with a sentence of 10 years (in addition to an absurd number of lashes in public) for political dissidence.