The House of Representatives passed a resolution recognizing the brutal repression of activists in Saudi Arabia who speak out against gross violations of women’s human rights. Passed unanimously on Monday, House Resolution 129 adds to the widening calls for the release of imprisoned activists and writers. including PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write 2019 recipients Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Naffjan, and Nouf Abdulaziz. 

“The Saudi government cannot shirk accountability for its brutal oppression of those voices calling for fundamental freedoms,” said PEN America’s Washington director Thomas O. Melia. “This resolution lends valuable momentum to the campaign to end impunity for Saudi crackdowns and reform the medieval Saudi guardianship system, which holds the exercise of Saudi women’s most basic rights captive to the whims of their male guardians.”

The resolution—introduced by Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), with original co-sponsors Reps. Ann Wagner (R-MO), David Cicilline (D-RI), and Susan Wild (D-PA), as well as 28 additional sponsors—“condemns the Government of Saudi Arabia’s continued detention and alleged abuse of women’s rights advocates” imprisoned for exercising their expressive rights. The resolution also calls on the U.S. government to impose sanctions on Saudi officials who have overseen these human rights abuses, and broadly condemns the guardianship system.

PEN America strongly supports the victims of the Saudi state’s repression of its critics. In May, PEN America awarded the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award to three imprisoned women’s rights activists—Al-Hathloul, Al-Naffijan, and Abdulaziz. They were initially detained without charges, and have been subjected to solitary confinement and torture. Since May, over 13,000 people have signed a PEN America petition demanding the Saudi government drop charges against the three women. PEN also continues to advocate for accountability of those responsible for the murder ofWashington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org