UN calls on Saudi Arabia to release activists who campaigned for lifting driving ban

July 31, 2018

A Saudi woman strolls at a cars showroom in the coastal Red Sea city of Jeddah on June 23, 2018, a day before the lifting of a ban on women driving in the conservative Arab kingdom. Photo: AFP

The United Nations human rights office called on Saudi Arabia on Tuesday to release all peaceful activists, including women held for campaigning to lift a long-time ban on driving.

They included prominent women’s rights advocate Hatoon al-Fassi, arrested in June as she was planning to take journalists in her car to celebrate the much-hyped end of the world’s last ban on female drivers, long seen as an emblem of repression in the deeply conservative Muslim country.

Genuine reforms appear to be taking place in the kingdom, “but this has not extended to the civil and political rights sphere” and dissent was still not accepted, UN human rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told a Geneva news briefing.