Stop cracking down on women’s rights activists, say the S&Ds to the government of Saudi Arabia

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Socialists and Democrats were the leading political force behind the resolution that was adopted today by the European Parliament to condemn the recent cracking down on women’s right activists in Saudi Arabia.  At least 11 people were arrested, mostly women, for promoting the right of women to drive. Four of them were reportedly released, but the rest could face long prison sentences. We demand their immediate release and ask the EU member states for targeted measures against Saudi individuals implicated in grave human rights violations.
 
We are also deeply shocked that the EPP tried to eliminate from the resolution the condemnation of the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia, which makes women second-class category citizens. Fortunately, the progressive forces lead by the S&Ds prevailed.
 
S&D spokesperson for human rights, Soraya Post MEP, said:
 
“In just a few days, on June 24, Saudi Arabia is set to lift the longstanding ban on women drivers. However, there will not be much to celebrate, as at the same time the government has expanded a cracking down on the very activists who had promoted the right of woman to drive. They have been accused of having ‘suspicious contacts with foreign parties’ and ‘undermining security and stability’ of the state.
 
‘This is totally absurd and totally undermines the credibility of the reform process in Saudi Arabia, promised by the Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman during his recent visit to Europe. We call on the government to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, including Raif Badawi, Sakharov Prize Laureate, still in jail solely for peacefully expressing his views. Women cannot wait anymore to enjoy their basic human rights!”
 
Antonio Panzeri, chair of the human rights subcommittee, added:
 
“I am dismayed by the prevalence of gender-based violence in Saudi Arabia, and by the existence of the male guardianship system, a reflection of the patriarchal system that rules the country. Despite recent government reforms aimed at boosting women’s rights, nothing has changed. Women still remain second-class citizens, who need their male guardian’s authorisation when they want to apply for a passport or get married.
 
“I urge Saudi authorities to get rid of the guardianship law, adopt a legislation that criminalises all forms of gender-based violence against women and ratify the international conventions to remove all obstacles women face in enjoying their rights, including sexual and reproductive rights.
 
“We also think that it’s high time for the EU member states to consider, for the first time ever, the introduction of targeted measures against Saudi individuals responsible for grave human violations. At the same time, we make it clear in our resolution that the EU should stay open for a constructive dialogue with Saudi authorities in order to improve the situation of human rights in the Kingdom.”