Help free my mother, Souad Al-Shammary, human rights defender in detention in Saudi Arabia

November 10, 2014

Help free my mother, Souad Al-Shammary, prominent human rights activist and women's rights advocate
Change.org is carrying a petition submitted by Worldwide Women’s Support Circle. It concerns the human rights defender Souad Al-Shammary in Saudi Arabia. The story is very effectively put in the mouth of her daughter who asks for her release:  “My mother’s name is Souad Al-Shammary. She is a liberal activist in Saudi Arabia who has called for the government to distance itself from radical Islamic clerics and to provide women with equal rights. On October 28th she was arrested and jailed for speaking out against the government — and I need your help to get her back.

When I was 7 years old, my father took me away from my mother without her consent and sent me to live with my grandmother in a village 100 km away — a decision that was completely legal under Islamic Law. Because of another antiquated law my mother was not even able to gain visitation rights, and that was the moment that everything changed.

My mother’s fight to regain custody of me ignited in her a desire to fight for the rights of others around the country, and since then she has spent her life speaking out and calling for reform in Saudi Arabia.

She was the first female lawyer in Saudi Arabia to present a case in front of the courts, supports efforts to give women the right to drive, has long called for the government to take a stronger stand against terrorism, and along with her friend and fellow activist Raif Badawi started the Saudi Liberal Network, an organization that stands up for progressive causes in the country.

From the beginning, she has been a target of militants and conservative religious leaders for her beliefs. They have threatened to kill her and her children, my 4 brothers and sisters and me, which has always terrified her.

Earlier this year a popular Sheik said that he prayed she would “become blind and [lose] the use of her hand” after she tweeted that she thought it was silly to demand all Muslim men grow beards to distinguish themselves from non-believers.

In 2012, her friend Raif Badawi was arrested for apostasy and “insulting Islam through electronic channels” because of his work with the Saudi Liberal Network. In May of this year he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes, and a $260,000 fine — simply for starting the Saudi Liberal Network website and encouraging peaceful discussion and debate. I am terrified that my mother faces the same fate, or even worse.

She was called in for questioning without legal representation on October 28th, and was then charged with publicly calling for the liberation of Saudi women and the separation of religion from the government, ridiculing religious texts, and stating publicly that the government of Saudi Arabia had ties to extremists. No court date has been set, and she is still being held in a prison in Jeddah. My family and I don’t know what is going to happen to her, and we are scared that she is being abused inside the jail.

The government has frozen all of her bank accounts, and my siblings and I are scared that we will be forced apart if she is not released.

When I was growing up, my mother always told me that just when you think it is time to give up, a miracle will happen. That is why my mother never stopped fighting for what she believed in, and why I know I have to keep fighting for her now. She has always stood up for justice, equality, and freedom,and she should not be in prison for exercising her right to speak her mind.

My mother inspires me, and I hope to live my life with the same integrity and courage that she lives hers. That is why I am standing up to demand the government of Saudi Arabia release her and drop the false charges brought against her.

My mother is a peaceful activist who is simply trying to shine a light where there has been darkness for so long. Please stand with me and help me bring my mother home.

Sincerely,

Souad’s Daughter”

Petition · Help free my mother, Souad Al-Shammary, prominent human rights activist and womens rights advocate · Change.org.

see also: ANHRI calls for release of Saudi woman rights activist – Daily News Egypt.

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