PEN International is calling for the overturning of the June 15, 2013 conviction of leading writer and activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider (f), who was sentenced to 10 months in prison and a two-year travel ban alongside fellow activist Fawzia al-Oyouni for their peaceful women’s rights activism. 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 June 15, 2013, writer and activist Wajeha al-Huwaider and activist 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 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 the charges had been dropped. However, over a year later, in July 2012, they were called in for questioning about the Women2Drive campaign, a campaign calling for Saudi women to be allowed to drive, which both Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni have pioneered. Following their summons they were informed that 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"—inciting a woman against her husband. Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni are appealing their convictions. Their appeal will be heard on July 12, 2013. 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, please click here.

To read her article "Saudi Women Can Drive. Just Let Them" (published in the Washington Post on 16 August 2009), please click here.

Write A Letter

  • Protesting the convictions of writer and activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider and activist Fawzia al-Oyouni, who have been targeted solely for their peaceful activism in violation of their right to freedom of expression as protected in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • Calling for the sentences against them to be quashed.

Send Your Letter To

Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933
Airport Road
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 1 403 3125

Minister of Justice
Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa
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.

**Send appeals immediately. Please contact this office if sending appeals after July 12, 2013**