Photo: Loujain al-Hathloul who was arrested in 2015 for driving in Saudi Arabia. CC BY-SA 4.0
As part of our theme Stop Arming Repression, we’ve been highlighting human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, and the UK weapons which support these abuses.
Some good news today: women will be able to drive in Saudi Arabia next year.
This a small but symbolic step: for several years now, women’s human rights activists in Saudi have been campaigning for the right to drive and faced harsh repression, including imprisonment, for their actions. Not having the autonomy to drive themselves, and instead rely on a male chaperone, has been symbolic of the oppression women face in the country, and todays news (if it comes into practice) is a small step in the right direction.
However, it is only a small step and women (along with LGBT people, those from minority ethnic or religious backgrounds and others) in Saudi Arabia continue to face severe human rights abuses. Amnesty International stated:
“If by June next year women in Saudi Arabia are driving the streets without fear of arrest, then this will be a cause for celebration. But it is just one step. We also need to see a whole range of discriminatory laws and practices swept away in Saudi Arabia including the guardianship system where every woman has a male guardian, be it their father, brother, husband or son, having authority to make decisions on her behalf.
“Likewise, we mustn’t lose sight of the fact that Saudi Arabia has recently arrested a whole new set of human rights activists and peaceful critics. A crackdown is still in full swing in Saudi Arabia and one isolated step in the right direction isn’t going to fundamentally alter that.”
And all if this is not to mention the Saudi government’s continued bombing campaign against civilians in Yemen.
The UK has a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, who are our biggrest customer in the international arms trade. The UK government must embargo arms sales to Saudi and use its infulence to push for greater human rights reforms.
Pop into Peace Hub to learn more about women’s human rights activists in Saudi Arabia and sign a letter to your MP calling on them to speak out against arms to Saudi.