Saudi Arabia uses women to spruce up its image: 2 efforts

October 23, 2020

Effort 1: With women’s empowerment topping the agenda at next week’s B20 Summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International is on 23 October 2020 reminding business leaders that many of the country’s bravest women’s rights activists are languishing in prison for daring to demand reforms.  “Since assuming the G20 Presidency Saudi Arabia has invested heavily in rebranding its image.But Saudi Arabia’s real changemakers are behind bars” says Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa

Loujain al Hathloul, Nassima al-Sada, Samar Badawi, Maya’a al-Zahrani, and Nouf Abdulaziz spearheaded women’s rights campaigns, including calling for the right to drive and an end to the repressive male guardianship system. But while Saudi Arabia talks up recent reforms such as the relaxation of social restrictions and the loosening of the guardianship system to court approval from the rich and powerful around the B20, women’s rights activists remain in detention.

Saudi Arabia has publicized the fact that this year, 33 percent of B20 delegates are women – the highest ever contingency. The B20 website states that “Women in Business” will be Saudi Arabia’s “signature topic” as President. “B20 leaders must not be fooled by this shameless hypocrisy, and we call on them to show they care about human rights as much as business opportunities. Any business operating in or with Saudi Arabia has a responsibility to ensure they are not contributing to human rights violations through their activities.” 

The B20 is the official forum for business leaders to present policy recommendations to the G20, ahead of the main summit in November. This year high profile participants include representatives from HSBC, Mastercard, PwC, McKinsey, CISCO, ENI, Siemens, Accenture and BBVA.

Currently, 13 women’s rights defenders remain on trial facing prosecution for their human rights activism. Several face charges of contacting foreign media or international organizations, including Amnesty International. Some were also accused of “promoting women’s rights” and “calling for the end of the male guardianship system”. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/13/saudi-arabia-persist-with-trial-for-women-human-rights-defenders/

Amnesty International has written to businesses participating in the B20 Summit raising serious concerns about the human rights risks of business operations in and with Saudi Arabia, and reminding them of their human rights responsibilities.

We urge B20 delegates also to think carefully about how their brands could be legitimizing human rights violations and endorsing Saudi Arabia’s charm offensive,” said Lynn Maalouf. “If B20 Saudi Arabia was as progressive as it claims, the activists who did so much to secure more rights for women would have a seat at the table.” 

Effort 2: Nineteen NGOs are calling on golf’s Ladies European Tour to reconsider the decision to hold a tournament hosted by Saudi Arabia. Pulling out of the tournament, they explain, would be ab act of solidarity with women’s rights campaigners detained in the Kingdom.

“While we acknowledge that such tournaments represent an important milestone in women’s golf, we are deeply concerned that Saudi Arabia is using this sports event as a public relations tool to sportwash its appalling human rights record, including discrimination against women and the crackdown on women’s rights defenders,” said the NGOs in a letter to the tour organisers.

The event is due to take place in Saudi Arabia from 12 to 19 November, with a cash prize of $1.5 million from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman.

Saudi Arabia has faced sustained criticism that it uses major sporting tournaments to deflect from its human rights abuses. The arrest of prominent activist Loujain Al-Hathloul in 2018 and several others was highlighted as a serious concern.

Al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina, took to Twitter with the hashtag #StandWithSaudiHeroes to highlight the punishments that women activists are subjected to simply for demanding basic liberties that are taken for granted elsewhere. [see also; https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/10/07/lina-al-hathloul-speaks-out-for-her-sister-loujain-imprisoned-in-saudi-arabia/]

In a letter penned to the top players on the Ladies European Tour, the 25-year-old described the event as a “grubby charade” as she argued that taking part was akin to giving “tacit endorsement to the Saudi regime and its imprisonment and torture of activists like my sister.”

Al-Hathloul’s imprisonment has been met with international outcry as concerns grow over her fate. Human rights organisations including Amnesty International have alleged that she and other women campaigners have been subjected to torture and sexual harassment, including threats of rape, while in Saudi detention.

The crackdown on female activists by the Saudi government reached its peak when the authorities arrested and detained Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan and Aziza Al-Yousef on 15 May, 2018. Just weeks later, other leading women’s rights advocates and feminist figures were also arrested, including Samar Badawi and Nassima Al-Sadah.

“We remain concerned that they will not be able to exercise their right to a fair trial in accordance with the international human rights standards, to which Saudi Arabia is obliged to adhere,” wrote the NGOs. The only way to achieve true progress, they added, is to implement real reforms on women’s rights, and immediately release those arrested for defending these rights. “While we hope that Saudi Arabia can indeed develop its interaction with other countries around the world through hosting sports and other events in the Kingdom, we cannot ignore the country’s attempt to conceal its continued detention of women’s rights activists and discrimination against women by hosting a women’s sports tournament.”

Effort 2: The sister of jailed Saudi activist Loujain Al-Hathloul has called on European golf players to boycott the upcoming tournament in Saudi Arabic. In a letter sent to the Independent newspaper, Lina Al-Hathloul begged the top players on the Ladies European Tour to show support for her sister’s plight by not attending golfing events in Saudi Arabia scheduled for November.

In her letter, Lina wrote: “My sister is a women’s rights activist imprisoned and tortured by the Saudi regime. I understand the importance of sports to create links and bridges between different societies. “However, the current Saudi regime uses sports to whitewash its crimes, to have a window to the West, while maintaining and even worsening women’s conditions inside the country.

Don’t go to Saudi Arabia, don’t help that barbaric regime launder its reputation through your excellence. Stand in solidarity with women’s rights activists. Boycott the Ladies European Tour events in Saudi Arabia.

I am begging you, as a woman, as a person of conscience and as a role model – please boycott the Saudi women’s tour event.

—–

Support Loujain Hathloul by boycotting Saudi event, European golfers urged

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/10/with-women-activists-jailed-saudi-b20-summit-is-a-sham/

2 Responses to “Saudi Arabia uses women to spruce up its image: 2 efforts”


  1. […] Al-Hathloul, 31, has been on a hunger strike since Oct. 26 against Al-Hair prison authorities. The prison approximately 25 miles (40 kilometers) south of Riyadh is Saudi Arabia’s largest detention center. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/23/saudi-arabia-uses-women-to-spruce-up-its-image-2-effort…%5D […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: