Rights groups last week reported the detention of seven activists, mostly women who previously campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system, which requires women to obtain the consent of a male relative for major decisions. The government later announced that seven people were arrested for suspicious contacts with foreign entities and offering financial support to “enemies overseas”. Those held include Loujain al-Hathloul who has publicly opposed the driving ban. State-backed media labelled those held as traitors and “agents of embassies”, unnerving diplomats in Saudi Arabia, a key US ally, with some likening it to repression in neighbouring Egypt and saying their governments would privately discuss the issue with Saudi authorities. “These actions are inconsistent with messages of reform on which western support for Vision 2030 is based,” one diplomat said, referring to Saudi Arabia’s ambitious social and economic reform agenda. “These actions will have consequences.” Official criticism by foreign governments has been scant. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has courted western allies to support his reforms. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments were discussed during trips to the US and Europe. Amnesty International said seven women and two men were now… Read full this story
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