22 August 2022. Salma al Shehab has two children, is a dentist, and was preparing her PhD in oral health in the city of Leeds, in the United Kingdom, until 15 January 2021, when she was arrested when travelling to her country to spend vacations with the family. They arrested her and then sentenced her to 34 years in prison for posting tweets defending women’s rights.
They detained her for several months, during which she was ill-treated and could not hire a lawyer before being tried by a specialised terrorism court, which initially sentenced her to six years’ imprisonment.
But on 9 August, the Specialized Criminal Court of Appeal issued a 34-year sentence on charges such as “destabilising the security of society and the State,” “spreading sedition,” “helping those seeking to disrupt public order” or “spread false and malicious rumours on Twitter”. The Court added a ban on him travelling abroad for another 34 years when he leaves prison.
Amnesty International, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, and several other human rights organisations came out to denounce the situation and launched petitions for the annulment of the sentence along with the release of Salma al Shehab. The conviction represents an alarming escalation in using Saudi Arabia’s anti-terrorist law to criminalise and unduly restrict the right to freedom of expression. The ultra-reactionary Saudi monarchy seeks to intimidate women and dissidents who, in the framework of the fourth feminist wave, are fighting for equal rights.
From the International Workers’ Unity – Fourth International (IWU-FI), we repudiate this condemnation and call for the broadest international solidarity to demand the immediate release of Selma al Shehab. We stand in solidarity with all Saudi women in their struggle against patriarchal oppression and in the fight to win equal rights.
INTERNATIONAL WORKERS’ UNITY – FOURTH INTERNATIONAL (IWU-FI)