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Rights groups dismayed by Saudi's hosting of a women's rights summit while activist remain behind bars

RIGHTS organisations expressed their dismay today at Saudi Arabia’s hosting of an international women’s summit while women’s rights activists remain locked up there.

The Women 20 summit (W20) had its virtual launch in the autocratic kingdom today and will run until Thursday, ahead of the G20 leaders’ summit next month.

According to its website, W20 aims to “share and scale solutions to women’s empowerment through (financial, digital inclusion and labour) inclusion, inclusive decision-making and entrepreneurship.”

But campaigners called out the hypocrisy of the Saudi government’s claims to be securing gender equality while women such as Loujain al-Hathloul, Nassima al-Sadah, Samar Badawi and Nouf Abdulaziz are imprisoned — for advocating women’s rights.

“While courageous women are subjected to torture for peaceful activities, the Saudi government seeks to assert itself on the international stage as a ‘reforming’ power,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Hiba Zayadin.

In an open letter penned last week, Amnesty called on attendees not to help the Saudi government whitewash its international reputation.

“Amnesty International urges you to use your leverage at the W20 meetings … to call on the Saudi Arabian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all Saudi women human rights defenders in detention,” the letter said.

 

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