Saudi Authorities Detain 7 Women Driving Campaigners For Links to ‘Foreign Entities’

Seven individuals who campaigned for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia have been detained for supposedly working with “foreign entities,” just weeks before the kingdom is due to lift its ban on women drivers. The Interior Ministry on Saturday accused those detained of trying to recruit government workers and providing money to foreign entities in a bid to destabilize the country. The activists have not officially been identified, but state-linked media outlets have named three of them as Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, and Eman al-Najfan. Sources cited by the Associated Press say Madeha al-Ajroush and Aisha al-Manae are also among those detained. All five women are prominent activists who have been a driving force behind calls for more women’s rights. The arrests come less than two months before the kingdom is set to abolish its ban on women drivers, a reform that 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has largely taken credit for. In response to the recent arrests, Human Rights Watch said the crown prince’s reforms campaign “has been a frenzy of fear for genuine Saudi reformers who dare to advocate publicly for human rights or women’s empowerment.”