The Saudi state arrested seven women’s rights activists accusing them of working with ‘foreign agents’ against the interests of the Kingdom, The Independent reported.
The episode takes place weeks before the lifting of the female Saudi driving ban in Saudi Arabia.
The arrested women considered the most prominent and outspoken activists in the country had taken part in several women rights issues in the country.
Photos of those arrested went viral online after pro-government media outlets and newspaper, labeled them as ‘traitors’.
The campaigners have been vocal in demanding that women should be given permission to drive, however, stressed that this was the first step towards gender equality in the kingdom, with other forms of gendered discrimination such as guardianship laws still needing to be reformed.
The feminist movement is seen inclusive of a larger democratic struggle in the kingdom where all modes of dissent are termed illegal, with the decision making power lying with the King, and the powerful crown prince Muhammad Bin Salman.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, activists disclosed the names of two campaigners Madeha al Ajroush and Aisha al Manae who were among those detained by the Saudi state.
Both women took part in the right to drive protest movement in 1990, which resulted in the arrest of 50 women at the time.
The interior ministry has not named the women arrested however it has stated that the group is being investigated for collusion with foreign agencies, which according to the Saudi state were working with the aim of destabilizing the kingdom.
The Saudi state has on many instances in the past threatened rights activists for openly voicing their opinions and critiquing government policies.
Even today, “anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince’s rights agenda is bound to face jail time” according to the Human Rights Watch.
Activists also stated that two men who worked to support women’s rights campaigners were also among the seven detained.
Several women’s rights campaigners have also been barred from leaving the country.
A pro-government social media Twitter account branded the arrested activists as ‘traitors’ who have committed treason and have betrayed the nation through the critique of state policies.
This story originally appeared in The Independent