Aziza al-Yousef

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Aziza al-Yousef
Born1957 or 1958 (age 62–63)[1]
Occupationcomputer science professor (retired)[2]
Known forWomen's rights (driving, male guardianship) activist[1]

Aziza al-Yousef is a Saudi Arabian women's rights activist and academic.[3] She was detained by Saudi authorities in May 2018 along with Loujain al-Hathloul and five others.[4]

As of November, 2018, she was apparently being held in the Dhahban Central Prison.[5] In late March 2019, the women presented their defence and described physical and sexual abuse they had endured in captivity. Aziza al-Yousef, together with Eman al-Nafjan and Dr Rokaya Mohareb were released on bail.[6]


Al-Yousef studied briefly at King Saud University as a teenager before moving to the United States to study at Virginia Commonwealth University. She completed her master's degree back at King Saud University.[7]

Al-Yousef taught computer science at King Saud university for 28 years before retiring.[8]

In 2013, al-Yousef was arrested along with fellow activist Eman al-Nafjan for driving through Riyadh by themselves. They were forced to sign a pledge that they would not drive again.[9] In 2013, al-Youssef launched a global awareness campaign following the rape of 5-year girl by her father, a Saudi cleric.[8]

In 2016, she helped to lead a campaign against the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia.[2] She "attempted to deliver to the Royal Advisory Council a 14,700-signature petition seeking to abolish the guardianship regulations but she was rebuffed and told to mail it."[7]

Around 15–18 May 2018, al-Yousef was detained by Saudi authorities, along with Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aisha Almane, Madeha al-Ajroush and two men involved in women's rights campaigning.[10][11][12] Human Rights Watch interpreted the purpose of the arrests as frightening "anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince's rights agenda".[4] Saudi authorities accused the arrested activists of having "suspicious contact with foreign parties", providing financial support to "hostile elements abroad" and recruiting government workers.[13]


  1. ^ a b c Fahim, Kareem (23 June 2018). "Meet the Saudi women who advocated for the right to drive — and are paying dearly for it". The Washington Post. Retrieved 23 June 2018.
  2. ^ a b Sidahmed, Mazin (26 September 2016). "Thousands of Saudis sign petition to end male guardianship of women". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  3. ^ Burke, Jason (17 June 2011). "Saudi Arabia women test driving ban". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 June 2011. Retrieved 19 June 2011.
  4. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia: Women's Rights Advocates Arrested — Jumping Ahead of Crown Prince's Reforms Risks Jail Time". Human Rights Watch. 18 May 2018. Archived from the original on 19 May 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  5. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Reports of torture and sexual harassment of detained activists". Amnesty International. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  6. ^ Michaelson, Ruth (28 March 2019). "Saudi Arabia bails three women on trial for human rights activism". the Guardian. Retrieved 28 March 2019.
  7. ^ a b "A conversation with Saudi women's rights advocate Aziza al-Yousef | Rob L. Wagner | AW". AW. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  8. ^ a b Fahim, Kareem (23 June 2018). "Meet the Saudi women who advocated for the right to drive — and are paying dearly for it". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  9. ^ Usher, Sebastian (29 November 2013). "Saudi female driver defies ban". BBC News. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  10. ^ Female activists detained ahead of Saudi driving ban reversal, 20th May, The National
  11. ^ "Saudi Arabia 'arrests women's rights activists'". Al Jazeera English. 19 May 2018. Archived from the original on 19 May 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  12. ^ Saudi Arabia arrests female activists weeks before lifting of driving ban, By Sarah El Sirgany and Hilary Clarke, May 21, 2018, CNN
  13. ^ "Saudis detain women's advocates ahead of driving ban lift". Retrieved 20 May 2018.