Eleven Saudi women known as prominent activists campaigning for female rights to drive and the end of man guardianship were detained last week after being suspected for “working for foreign entities.”
The released activists have been identified as Aisha al-Manea, Hassa al-Sheikh, Madeha Alajroush and Wala’a al-Shubbar.
Their release came following an international large scale pressure on Saudi authorities who have embarked, under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on polishing the kingdom’s image, including through the improvement of women’s rights and conditions.
The activists and their likes still held have been branded as “agents of embassies”. The female rights campaigners have called for the removal of the kingdom’s restriction forbidding women to drive. They also campaigned against men’s right to monitor their movements and to have a say in their decisions.
Their arrest has cast a doubt on the kingdom’s eagerness to open up and improve women’s rights.
Activists and diplomats have speculated that the new wave of arrests may be aimed at appeasing conservative elements opposed to social reforms pushed by the Crown Prince, Reuters reports.
The waves of arrests took place one month before the lifting of the ban on women’s right to drive as Saudi women can sit behind a wheel as of June 24.