Nassima al-Sadah

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Nassima al-Sadah (also al-Sada or al-Sasa) (Born 1974[1]) is a Shia human rights writer and activist from the "restive Shi'ite-majority"[2] eastern province Qatif, Saudi Arabia.[3] She has "campaigned for civil and political rights, women's rights and the rights of the Shi'a minority"[4] in the eastern province Qatif, Saudi Arabia for many years. She ran as a candidate in the 2015 Saudi Arabian municipal elections but was disqualified.[3][5] Sadah and another prominent activist, Samar Badawi, were arrested on July 30, 2018 [4] were arrested by Saudi authorities in a broader "government crackdown" on "activists, clerics and journalists."[2] Al Sada was placed in solitary confinement in early February 2019 in al-Mabahith Prison in Dammam.[6]


According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Sadah, as a columnist and commentator for the Saudi news website Juhaina, wrote about human rights—specifically women's rights including the political participation of women—Saudi nationality laws of Saudi Arabia, and the U.N. campaign to end violence against women.[7] Sadah, like other women's rights activists, campaigned to abolish the male guardianship system and the right to drive.[2][7] Without the consent of a male relative, women are not allowed to make major decisions.[2]


In 2012, Nassima al-Sadah filed a lawsuit "against the traffic department of the interior ministry at the Dammam court" in Eastern Province" as part of a larger campaign to "get behind the wheel" and revive the women to drive campaign that gained international attention during the 2011–12 Saudi Arabian protests of the Arab Spring. Manal al-Sharif and Samar Badawi had already filed similar lawsuits.[8] Women were granted the right to drive in Saudi Arabia in June 2018.[9]


According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), on July 30, 2018, Sadah and Samar Badawi, both prominent activists,[4] were arrested by Saudi authorities in a "government crackdown" on "activists, clerics and journalists",[2][10] including many activists of the Saudi anti male-guardianship campaign. Between May 2018 and February 2019, "at least 15 human rights activists, including several women human rights defenders [were] detained without charge in Saudi Arabia."[6][Notes 1] Amnesty International (AI) reported that Nassima al-Sada, who, as of February 2019, has been held in prison since July 2018 without charges or a trial, had been placed in solitary confinement in early February 2019 in al-Mabahith Prison.[6]

Allegations of torture[edit]

According to their November 20, 2018 report based on three separate testimonies, AI said that the activists held in al-Mabahith Prison were "repeatedly tortured by electrocution and flogging, leaving some unable to walk or stand properly."[11] According to The Washington Post, a Saudi official denied that torture was condoned by the state.[12] According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) March 7 statement reported in The New York Times, "Saudi interrogators [reportedly] tortured at least four of the women with electric shocks, and by whipping their thighs and sexually harassing and assaulting them."[13]


According to The Washington Post, the trial for ten of the women rights activists—including Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah—began on March 13, 2019.[14]


Amnesty International (AI) described the crackdown as an "unprecedented level of persecution of human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia"[4][Notes 2][3][5][Notes 3] One year following the arbitrary detention of Saudi Arabia’s leading women human rights defenders, Amnesty International called for the immediate and unconditional release of Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Najfan, Aziza alYousef, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada and all other human rights defenders detained and facing trial for their peaceful human rights work.[15] and described the arrests of the "human rights defenders" engaged in "peaceful human rights work" as "arbitrary."[15] In March 2019, Amnesty International called "the immediate and unconditional release of Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Najfan, Aziza alYousef, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada and all other human rights defenders ".[15]

According to an August 7, 2018 in the National Post, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland "openly criticized the Saudis" for the arrests. Saudi Arabia retaliated for "Canada’s "interference" by expelling the Canadian ambassador and freezing all new trade between the countries."[9]

On International Women's Day March 2019, the CPJ highlighted the number of female journalists who remained in prisons around the world, listing Nassima al-Sadah specifically.[7]

According to a March 7, 2019 article in The New York Times, in a "landmark initiative", 36 member nations[Notes 4] of the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) rebuked Saudi Arabia "for its aggressive crackdown on free expression."[13] It was the first time "states had ever confronted Saudi Arabia", who is a UNHRC member, over its human rights record.[13] The UNHRC statement specifically named Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Nassima al-Sadah, Samar Badawi, Nouf Abdelaziz, Hatoon al-Fassi, Mohammed al-Bajadi, Amal al-Harbi and Shadan al-Anezi, all of whom were arrested in the May 2018 crackdown.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ten other women's rights activists were arrested in the crackdown prior to the arrest of Sadah and Badawi, including Eman al-Nafjan, Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Aisha al-Manea, Ibrahim Modeimigh and Mohammed al-Rabea.
  2. ^ Badawi's brother Raif is in prison in Saudi Arabia. His "wife, Ensaf Haidar, and their three children have been living in Quebec, Canada, since 2015, where they fled to escape further persecution. On Canada Day July 1, 2018, Haidar and the children became Canadian citizens." VOX
  3. ^ Women "still need the approval of male guardians to travel or study outside the country, or even get a passport."
  4. ^ The countries signing the statement were Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e "Saudi Arabia arrests two more women's rights activists: rights group". Reuters. Dubai. August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2018.
  3. ^ a b c Cynthia Gorney (12 December 2015). "In a Historic Election, Saudi Women Cast First-Ever Ballots". National Geographic. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d "Saudi Arabia: Two more women human rights activists arrested in unrelenting crackdown". Amnesty International. August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 6, 2018. Nassima al-Sada has campaigned for civil and political rights, women’s rights and the rights of the Shi’a minority in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia for many years. She stood in municipal elections in 2015, but was banned from participating. She has also campaigned for the right of women to drive and for the end of the repressive male guardianship system. Nassima al-Sada was also subject to a travel ban prior to her detention.
  5. ^ a b "Two disqualified as first Saudi women begin campaign for election". The Guardian/AFP. 29 November 2015. Archived from the original on 29 November 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2015.
  6. ^ a b c "Saudi Arabia: Saudi Activist held in Solitary Confinement: Nassima al-Sada". 20 February 2019. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  7. ^ a b c "On International Women's Day, CPJ highlights jailed female journalists". Committee to Protect Journalists. March 8, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  8. ^ Mezzofiore, Gianluca (13 November 2012). "Saudi Arabia: Women's Activist Nassima al-Sadah Sues Interior Ministry over Female Driving Ban". International Business Times (IBT). UK. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  9. ^ a b Forrest, Maura (August 7, 2018). "Who are the women at the centre of Canada's diplomatic spat with Saudi Arabia?". National Post. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  10. ^ "Saudi crown prince is throwing women in jail for speaking up". Washington Post. Opinion. August 4, 2018.
  11. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Reports of torture and sexual harassment of detained activists". 20 November 2018. Retrieved 15 December 2015.
  12. ^ Fahim, Kareem (20 November 2018). "Jailed Saudi women's rights activists said to face electric shocks, beatings and other abuse". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d Cumming-Bruce, Nick (March 7, 2019). "Saudi Arabia Rebuked for First Time by Fellow Members of U.N. Rights Council". The New York Times. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  14. ^ "Trial begins for 10 Saudi women's rights activists as journalists are barred from court -". The Washington Post. March 14, 2019. Retrieved March 15, 2019.
  15. ^ a b c "Saudi Arabia: Human rights defenders remain in detention despite promises of reform". Amnesty International. March 14, 2019. Retrieved August 6, 2018.