PEN America Echoes Congressional Call Demanding Saudi Action on Imprisoned Women’s Rights Activists
Saudi Arabia's ambassador has repeatedly rebuffed calls to meet about political prisoners, including 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honorees
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Washington D.C.) — Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and six additional members of the House of Representatives today released a statement decrying the failure of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar al Saud, to respond to multiple requests for meetings to discuss the ongoing detention of women’s rights activists, including 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Awardees Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, and Nouf Abdulaziz. PEN America applauds these members of Congress in their efforts to hold the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia accountable for these unjust imprisonments, and is alarmed by the refusal of the ambassador to respond to their requests for a meeting.
“Ignoring multiple efforts by leading members of Congress to discuss the legal status and confinement conditions of these women is a disturbing development in Saudi Arabia’s ongoing quest to quell awareness surrounding the country’s activists,” said PEN America Washington Director Thomas O. Melia. “We are especially disheartened to see that Princess Reema, a self-proclaimed women’s rights advocate, refuses even to engage in a conversation surrounding these women—even as the COVID-19 pandemic has led to worsening of global prison conditions. Some of the women in Saudi prisons, including Loujain Al-Hathoul, are even forced to engage in hunger strikes to protest the conditions of their imprisonment. We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to agree to a meeting with members of Congress.”
Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD), and Andy Levin (D-MI) joined in signing an original July 2 letter demanding a meeting and in today’s statement. Saudi Arabia remains the world’s second highest jailer of writers and public intellectuals, according to PEN America’s inaugural Freedom to Write Index published this May.