Human Rights Watch urged the Saudi government to drop a case against two Saudi women sentenced to 10-month in jail for seeking to help a Canadian woman who wanted to leave her Saudi husband with their children.
In addition to the jail terms, women rights activists Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni were also sentenced to travel bans. Al-Huwaider, who is a member of the HRW Middle East advisory committee said she believes the government pursued this case to punish her for unrelated women’s rights activism over the the years, including her calls and protest to lift the ban on driving.
“Saudi authorities are using the courts to send a message that they won’t tolerate any attempt to alleviate the dismal status of women’s rights in the kingdom,” Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW, said in statement.
Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni were convicted of the Islamic sharia law offense of takhbeeb, which means the incitement of a wife to defy the authority of her husband, according to an activist who spoke to AFP.
Saudi columnist Badriya al-Bisher criticized the court sentence saying it encourages violence against women:
I don’t know if takhbeeb applies to Canadian women but apparently it does to Saudi women. On this occasion, I would like to congratulate the husband on the court’s ruling to his favor. After this, nothing stands in the way of him doing whatever he wants with his wife, even if he wanted to lock her up in a bathroom and urinate on her. Or he could simply just keep starving her.
Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni said they plan to appeal their convictions.