(New York, NY) – A new wave of arrests carried out by Saudi authorities in the past few days against several journalists and writers is another dark chapter in the kingdom’s wider crackdown on dissent, PEN America said today. Those detained in reprisal for their expression should be released without delay.

On November 16, Saudi authorities initiated a new wave of arrests in cities across the country over five days. Officials raided the houses of at least ten writers and activists, arrested them, and seized their laptops and phones. Those targeted include Bader al-Rashed, Sulaiman al-Saikhan al-Nasser, among others.

“The current wave of arrests reminds us that far from ceasing their brutal crackdown on free expression, the Saudi government is feeling emboldened to harass and detain even more writers for the peaceful expression of their views,” said Karin Deutsch Karlekar, director of Free Expression at Risk Programs at PEN America. “So long as the international community fails to hold the Saudi prince accountable for his abuses, we can be assured they will continue. We call on the government of Saudi Arabia to immediately release these and other writers unjustly detained, and to stop initiating cruel reprisals against those who dare to speak their minds.”

Free expression in Saudi Arabia has been dramatically restricted under the tenure of the current crown prince, Mohammad Bin Salman. In May, PEN America awarded its 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award to three imprisoned women’s rights writer-activists—Nouf Abdulaziz, Eman Al-Nafjan, and Loujain Al-Hathloul.

They were initially detained without charges, and have been subjected to solitary confinement and torture. Since May, more than 13,000 people have signed a petition demanding the Saudi government drop charges against and release the three women. PEN America also continues to advocate for accountability of those responsible for the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.


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.

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, [email protected], +1 202 309 8892