Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on major auto manufactures to press Saudi Arabia over the release of a number of prominent female activists, who campaigned for women’s right to drive before the ultraconservative kingdom lifted its decades-long ban on women driving.
The US-based advocacy group said on Tuesday that it had launched the #StandwithSaudiFeminists campaign after contacting Nissan, Jaguar, Land Rover, Hyundai, Ford, Volkswagen, Audi, General Motors and Renault to urge them to act on behalf of the jailed women.
“The companies should speak out for these women who are unjustly behind bars awaiting trial and whose years of activism have created a lucrative new market for the car companies,” Human Rights Watch Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
Female activists, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Nouf Abdelaziz, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Hatoon al-Fassi, Samar Badawi, Nassema al-Sadah and Amal al-Harbi, campaigned against the ban on women to drive in Saudi Arabia for years.
The ban on women driving finally came to an end on June 24 in Saudi Arabia. But the lifting of the ban was accompanied by fresh arrests of several female campaigners.
At least nine people remain in detention, according to Human Rights Watch.
Saudi authorities have accused them of contacting “foreign entities”, and local media have labeled them traitors.
Saudi Arabia is the last country in the world to permit women to obtain driving licenses.
In September last year, Riyadh removed the driving ban on women as part of reforms to undo the damage the ultraconservative kingdom has suffered for decades of human rights violations both inside and outside of Saudi Arabia.
The move came shortly after women were also permitted access into a sports stadium, for the first time, to watch a concert.
In 2016, Saudi Arabia was ranked 141 out of 144 on the Global Gender Gap Index.
In recent years, the Ale Saud regime has come under intense pressure by rights groups for mistreating women.
Saudi women banned from voting until 2015, when they were allowed to vote in local elections.