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    “Amnesty Reports Saudi Woman’s 11-Year Jail Sentence for Social Media Posts”


    Saudi Woman Sentenced to 11 Years for Social Media Posts Challenges Kingdom's Reforms

    Amnesty International has raised concerns over the case of Manahel Al-Otaibi, a 29-year-old fitness instructor in Saudi Arabia, who has been sentenced to 11 years in prison. The charges stem from her choice of clothing and social media posts advocating for the end of the kingdom’s male guardianship system.

    Details of Al-Otaibi’s case came to light through Saudi Arabia’s formal response to a request from the United Nations human rights office, as reported by London-based Amnesty. According to Amnesty and the Saudi human rights group Al-Qst, Al-Otaibi was charged for using the hashtag “Abolish male guardianship” on social media and sharing videos of herself wearing what authorities deemed “indecent clothes” and shopping without an abaya, a long robe traditionally worn by women in the kingdom.

    While Saudi Arabia has eased dress codes for foreign women in recent years, domestic activists like Al-Otaibi continue to face challenges due to the conservative social norms in the country. The case highlights the ongoing tensions between social reforms promoted by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and the persistence of restrictive laws and practices affecting women’s rights.

    The Saudi government’s response to the allegations differs from Amnesty’s account. Saudi Arabia denies that Al-Otaibi was sentenced for her social media posts, claiming instead that she was convicted of “terrorist offences” unrelated to freedom of expression or opinion. However, the specifics of these alleged terrorist offences were not provided in the Saudi response.

    Critics argue that Saudi Arabia’s counter-terrorism law is overly broad and has been used to suppress dissent. The United Nations has criticized the law for stifling freedom of expression and opinion. Al-Otaibi’s case reflects a broader pattern of crackdowns on peaceful dissent in the kingdom.

    Amnesty also highlighted the case of Al-Otaibi’s sister, Fawzia, who faced similar charges but fled Saudi Arabia after being summoned for questioning in 2022. The organization condemned the sentencing of Al-Otaibi, stating that it undermines Saudi Arabia’s claims of progress in women’s rights reforms.

    Despite some advancements, such as granting women the right to drive, obtain passports, and travel independently, Saudi Arabia continues to face scrutiny over its human rights record. Concerns persist over laws and practices that limit women’s autonomy, including aspects of the personal status law and ongoing restrictions on dress codes and social media expression for women within the kingdom.

    Sources By Agencies

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