Silenced

Detained women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia reportedly face torture and sexual harassment

(REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany)

Women’s rights activists who were arrested in Saudi Arabia six months ago are reportedly denied access to lawyers and tormented by psychological and physical torture techniques that include electric shocks, flogging, being told that relatives had been killed, and even sexual harassment, according to a report released last week by Amnesty International. In May, Saudi authorities abruptly detained many of the country’s most prominent feminists ahead of lifting the country’s ban on women driving. Speaking to The Washington Post, sources familiar with the detentions said that women who were arrested during the crackdown have been held in solitary confinement for long periods of time and forced to endure abuses from male interrogators that drove at least one inmate to attempt suicide several times. According to the Post’s sources, none of the detained activists have even been formally charged with a crime.

Speaking on condition of anonymity to protect the jailed women from further abuses, two sources said that an eyewitness had seen the women being beaten and subjected to electric shocks that left them unable to stand afterwards. The women, the sources added, exhibited telling signs from the abuse such as uncontrollable shaking. In a separate report from Amnesty International released on Tuesday, it was further alleged that at least one detainee was subjected to sexual harassment from male interrogators wearing masks.

“Only a few weeks after the ruthless killing of Jamal Khashoggi, these shocking reports of torture, sexual harassment and other forms of ill-treatment, if verified, expose further outrageous human rights violations by the Saudi authorities,” said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East research director.

In an emailed statement provided to the Post on the condition of anonymity, a Saudi official repeatedly denied that the women were being tortured.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s judiciary system does not condone, promote, or allow the use of torture. Anyone, whether male or female, being investigated is going through the standard judiciary process led by the public prosecution while being held for questioning, which does not in any way rely on torture either physical, sexual, or psychological,” the official said.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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