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End Travel Bans On Activists In Saudi Arabia

For too long, human rights defenders and peaceful activists have been arbitrarily detained, convicted, and subject to travel bans in Saudi Arabia. Call for these travel bans to be lifted now.

Over the past three years, Saudi Arabian society has witnessed a dizzying transformation in an attempt to improve its international image. But behind this skin-deep transformation lies a parallel reality – the ongoing ruthless repression that has targeted scores of Saudi human rights defenders and other peaceful activists, journalists, and clerics simply for peacefully expressing their views.

Saudi Arabian authorities are arbitrarily detaining at least 35 peaceful activists, after sentencing them to long prison terms and travel bans, in some cases just for tweeting about political reform. But even after they have served their sentences, these activists are still not free.

They have to live under lengthy travel bans imposed as part of their sentence which prevent them from leaving Saudi Arabia, ranging between 5 and 20 years.

Loujain al-Hathloul, Raif Badawi, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, and Abdulrahman al-Sadhan are part of a long list of activists who have been banned by courts from traveling.

Arbitrary travel bans are also sometimes imposed without a court order, with people only finding out about it when they try to travel and are turned away by Saudi Arabian authorities at airports or border crossings. These bans often affect family members of activists abroad in Saudi, tearing families apart and causing agonizing pain.

Sheikh Salman al-Odah who is at risk of the death penalty has had 19 of his family members subject to unlawful unjustified and open-ended travel bans simply for being related to him.

“Travel bans are an obvious way to blackmail activists’ family members, especially those living abroad like myself, in order to silence and intimidate us.” – Abdullah al-Odah, Sheikh Salman’s son.

Nearly 100,000 joined Amnesty’s petition to end travel bans against activists. The Saudi Arabian authorities must end their ruthless crackdown on human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, association and movement. Until then, we will continue to advocate fiercely for the rights of all residents and people, and to call out every infringement in the Kingdom.