Small groups of Saudi women held simultaneous “Sit-ins for Freedom” across Saudi cities on June 10, 2013, which were called for by anonymous advocacy group @almonaseron [The Supporters] to call for release of their imprisoned relatives. As a result, over 140 protesters, men and women, were arrested by Saudi forces during the previous two days.
Independent human rights sources say there are over 30,000 arbitrarily imprisoned people [ar], many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”. The detainees were arrested without a warrant and have not had access to lawyers and a trial. Protests in Saudi Arabia are strictly prohibited and participants risk spending many months in prison if they get caught. This, however, did not stop prisoners’ relatives from challenging the ban many times in small numbers over the past two years.
At 4.55pm, local time, @almonaseron announced the beginning of the sit-in and tweeted [ar]:
بدأ #اعتصام_الحرية نساء في عدة مناطق في آن واحد فعلى أهالي المعتقلين الإنضمام إليهم فوراً
@almonaseron: The Sit-in for Freedom just started: women from different areas [are gathering] simultaneously. Detainees’ relatives should join them right now.
In Riyadh, a group of women, several of whom were relatives of Suliman al-Roushodi, head of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association, gathered in front of the government-funded National Society for Human Rights, where they had protested back in February. One of the protesters was his daughter, Bahia al-Roushodi, who was given a suspended four-month prison sentence after that earlier sit-in. They were quickly surrounded by over 30 police cars [ar], and their driver was arrested[ar] and they were prohibited from leaving. One of Riyadh’s main roads, King Fahad Road, was closed by police during rush hour to crackdown on the sit-in. At 6.20pm, one of the protesters, al-Roushodi’s wife, tweeted:
تم اعتقالنا واعتقال اخي
@omamar1: They arrested us, and they arrested my brother.
Relatives of the arrested women protesters gathered in front of the prison where they were reportedly held. Photograph shared by @fatma_mesned on Twitter
At 11.44pm, relatives of the arrested women protesters gathered in front of the prison where they were reportedly held. al-Roushodi’s granddaughter, Fatima al-Mesned tweeted:
الآن مجتمعون امام سجن الملز قسم النساء لمن اراد المطالبه بمعتصمات #الرياض انصروا من نصر أسرانا
@fatma_mesned: For those who want to demand [the release of] the protesters: We are now in front of al-Malez prison, the female section. Support those who supported our prisoners.
In Buraydah, women gathered in front of the city’s Grand Court, and more than women joined the sit-in shortly. By 5.52pm, Saudi forces were surrounding the protesters [ar]. When a young man tried to provide water for the protesters, he was chased by the forces and arrested[ar]. Secret policemen wearing civilian cloths ordered the women to leave and threatened them, but they refused unless their relieves are released (video [ar]). The number of women protesters was increasing until they were forcefully arrested. At 8.24pm, @almonaseron tweeted:
الآن تم أركاب المعتصمات للباصات في بريدة بالقوة
@almonaseron: Women were just forced to ride the [police] buses.
Other small gathers were held in Mecca, Aljouf and Hial.