Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi

Detained: June 24, 2018.

Charges: ​Suspicious contacts with "foreign entities". Providing support to "foreign enemies." Coordinated activity to undermine the security, stability and social peace of the kingdom. Contacting international organizations, foreign media and other activists. Producing something that harms public order, religious values, public morals, the sanctity of private life, or authoring, sending, or storing it via an information network.

Sentence: Not yet sentenced.

Biography: Sometime between June 21 and June 24, 2018, Saudi authorities detained Professor Hatoon al-Fassi in apparent retaliation for her activism on women’s rights. 

Dr. al-Fassi is an Associate Professor of women’s history at King Saud University, writer, and prominent women’s rights activist. She is the author of Women in Pre-Islamic Arabia: Nabatea (2007) and of a newspaper column on contemporary social affairs. Dr. al-Fassi has been a leader in the renowned “Baladi” campaign, which gained women’s suffrage in 2011, and organized women’s full participation in municipal elections for the first time in 2015. She was a key actor in the effort to lift the ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia. After the ban was officially lifted on June 24, 2018, Dr. al-Fassi was one of the first women to drive, and she had planned to take journalists for a drive shortly after. At around the time the government lifted this ban, authorities began detaining women’s rights activists, including Dr. al-Fassi, for allegedly having contacts with “foreign entities” and for providing support to “foreign enemies”.

Starting in November 2018, alarming reports from Amnesty International and other human rights organizations stated that the detained women’s rights activists have been subjected to torture by electrocution and flogging, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. In February 2019, the Detention Review Panel, an independent group of British Parliamentarians and lawyers founded in 2018, published a report describing the treatment of the detained activists as “cruel, inhumane, and degrading.” In March 2019, leaked medical reports of at least 60 political prisoners, including women activists, indicate that they have been severely mistreated and subjected to torture.

On March 13, 2019, Dr. Al-Fassi and nine other women’s rights activists appeared in the criminal court in a closed-door trial for the first time since their arrest. Saudi Arabia has not made the charges public; however, reports indicate Dr. Al-Fassi and the other women activists are being tried on charges for allegedly communicating with international organizations and foreign media and promoting women’s rights. On March 27, following the second hearing, the court released three of the activists. On April 3, the remaining activists, including Dr. Al-Fassi appeared in court and were apparently denied bail. On May 2, Dr. Al-Fassi and three other women’s rights activists were temporarily released. Dr. Al-Fassi still faces trial and remains at risk of being sentenced to prison. 

She is one of many formerly Detained Women's Rights Activists in Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi has been granted TEMPORARY RELEASE.

Advocate: Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA)

Advocacy Partner: Scholars at Risk