Madeha al-Ajroush

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Madeha al-Ajroush
OccupationPsychotherapist, photographer, women's rights activist

Madeha al-Ajroush is a Saudi Arabian women's rights activist, psychologist and photographer. She was detained by Saudi authorities in May 2018 along with Loujain al-Hathloul and five others.

Women's rights activism[edit]

In 1990, al-Ajroush took part in the first protests by Saudi women against the ban on women driving.[1] As a result of these actions, al-Ajroush was detained and lost her job and passport.[2][3] With the first Gulf War taking place in neighbouring Kuwait, "Seeing female U.S. soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia driving gave the women the push they needed to act".[4] As an additional punishment for this action, photographic negatives created by al-Ajroush over 15 years were burned by Saudi authorities.[5]

In 2013, al-Ajroush told The Telegraph, '"Back in 1990 I was absolutely terrified," she said. "And there was no social media to highlight what we were doing and protect us."'[6]

Around 15–18 May 2018, she was detained by Saudi authorities, along with Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Aisha al-Mana and two men involved in women's rights campaigning.[7][8][9] Human Rights Watch interpreted the purpose of the arrests as frightening "anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince's rights agenda".[10] Saudi authorities accused the arrested activists of having "suspicious contact with foreign parties", providing financial support to "hostile elements abroad" and recruiting government workers.[11]

According to The Independent, the arrests came "just six weeks before Saudi Arabia is due to lift the world’s only ban on women driving."[12]

Madeha al-Ajroush and Aisha al-Mana were released after a few days, while the others remained under arrest.[13]


  1. ^ Fahim, Kareem; Morris, Loveday (19 May 2018). "In harsh Saudi crackdown, famous feminists are branded as 'traitors'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  2. ^ Nafjan, Eman Al (8 March 2012). "This year let's celebrate … the Saudi women's driving campaign | Eman Al Nafjan". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Saudi women driving campaigners detained and branded traitors". The Independent. 19 May 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  4. ^ "Body: Female: Gulf and Saudi Arabia". doi:10.1163/1872-5309_ewic_ewiccom_0159b.
  5. ^ "From women taking the wheel to the arrival of cinemas, Saudi Arabia is changing". Mainichi Daily News. 24 April 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  6. ^ Alexander, Harriet (25 October 2013). "Saudi women prepare for driving protest". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  7. ^ "Saudi Arabia 'arrests women's rights activists'". Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  8. ^ Saudi government detains seven women's rights activists, May 20, 2018
  9. ^ Saudi Arabia arrests female activists weeks before lifting of driving ban, By Sarah El Sirgany and Hilary Clarke, May 21, 2018, CNN
  10. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Women's Rights Advocates Arrested". Human Rights Watch. 18 May 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  11. ^ "Saudis detain women's advocates ahead of driving ban lift". Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  12. ^ "Saudi women driving campaigners detained and branded traitors". The Independent. 19 May 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2018.
  13. ^ Saudi Arabia releases 3 women as other activists still held, May 24, 2018 ABC news