A Saudi Arabian judge will hear an appeal on Friday from two women’s rights activists who were sentenced to 10 months in prison apiece for trying to help a woman they thought was being abused — or as the woman’s husband saw it, encouraging her to defy her his authority.
Two years ago, Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni began helping a Canadian woman named Nathalie Morin who is married to Sa’eed al-Shahrani, a former police officer, after they were contacted by Morin’s mother in Canada. But al-Shahrani was onto their scent and sought to have the activists arrested. As the BBC explains, the women claim that Morin’s husband sent a text message to them, pretending to be Morin and saying she and her kids had been locked in an apartment without food or water. When the activists went by her home, ostensibly to leave food, Morin’s husband called the police. The two women were arrested for attempted kidnapping.
Fortunately, the (completely nonsensical) kidnapping charge has been dropped. But their charges were replaced with a sharia law charge that I find just as absurd: takhbib, or ““supporting a wife without her husband’s knowledge, thereby undermining the marriage,” also known as encouraging a wife to defy her husband’s authority.
Last month, both activists were sentenced to a 10-month prison sentence and a two-year travel ban (although women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to travel without a male guardian’s permission anyway). The activists are appealing to the Saudi king for a pardon and claim they were targeted for their past activisms on women’s rights and victims of entrapment. Additionally, the women want to draw attention to the Saudi justice system’s reaction to women who dare question patriarchal authority.
Don’t let Saudi Arabia harass and intimidate women’s rights activists. You can write a letter to King Abdullah and other Saudi authorities to appeal for a pardon at Equality Now. Meanwhile, Nathalie Morin is appealing to the Canadian government to help her leave her marriage.
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[Photo of person behind bars via Shutterstock]