PEN International is alarmed by unconfirmed reports that the appeals against the June 15, 2013 convictions of writer and activist Wajeha al-Huwaider and fellow activist Fawzia al-Oyouni have been rejected, and that they may face imminent imprisonment. PEN calls for the convictions against them to be overturned, and urges that all restrictions imposed on the women be lifted, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. Leading Saudi Arabian writer and journalist Wajeha al-Huwaider has been the subject of a sustained harassment campaign since May 2003, when she was banned from publishing in Saudi Arabia.

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Background Information

On September 24, 2013, PEN received an unconfirmed report that the convictions and sentences imposed on writer and activist Wajeha al-Huwaider and activist Fawzia al-Oyouni had been upheld on appeal, and that they face imminent imprisonment. On June 15, 2013, Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni were each sentenced to 10 months in prison and a two-year travel ban for helping an allegedly abused woman in distress. The case dates back to June 6, 2011, when the pair was contacted by a Canadian woman, Nathalie Morin, who had been locked in her home in the city of Dammam with her three young children by her Saudi husband without sufficient provisions. Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni arrived with food and water and were immediately arrested. They were initially charged with kidnapping because Morin’s husband alleged that they intended to take Morin and the children to the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh.

Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni were released on June 7, 2011, and believed that the charges had been dropped. However, over a year later, in July 2012, they were called in for questioning about Women2Drive, a campaign for Saudi women to be allowed to drive which both al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni have pioneered. Following their summons they were informed that the charges against them in the Morin case would be referred to court. The trial began in December 2012, and on June 15, 2013, they were found not guilty of kidnapping, but convicted of "Takhbib," or inciting a woman against her husband.

Their convictions come as Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents. On June 24, 2013, seven government critics were sentenced to prison terms of five to ten years for allegedly inciting protests and harming public order by posting messages online, mainly on Facebook.

Leading writer and journalist Wajeha al-Huwaider has been subjected to harassment since May 2003, when she was first banned from publishing. She continues to publish online and overseas, and also writes poetry and short stories. In 2004 her case was taken up by PEN International and featured in its campaign for International Women’s Day. In November 2004 she was awarded the PEN/NOVIB Free Expression award at the Hague. She is an honorary member of English and Melbourne PEN. For further background, see a recent article in The Washington Post.

To read some of Al-Huwaider’s writings, click here.
To read her article "Saudi Women Can Drive. Just Let Them," click here.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the convictions of writer and activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider and activist Fawzia al-Oyouni, who are targeted solely for their peaceful activism in violation of their right to freedom of expression as laid out in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • Reiterating calls for the sentences against them to be quashed, and for all restrictions against them to be lifted.

Send Your Letter To

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933,
Airport Road,
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 11 403 3125

Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa
Minister of Justice
Ministry of Justice
University Street,
Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Ambassador Tom MacDonald
Embassy of Canada
P.O. Box 94321
Riyadh, 11693,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 11 482 5670

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia in your country if possible.

**Please contact PEN if sending appeals after November 27, 2013**