Washington, D.C. – Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD), and Andy Levin (D-MI) issued the following statement after Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar al Saud failed to respond to their letter concerning the ongoing detention of many women activists, including Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, Nouf Abdulaziz, and Samar Badawi. Nine weeks later, neither the Ambassador nor the Saudi embassy have responded to the Representatives’ request for a meeting to discuss the safety and legal status of these women. The embassy has also failed to respond to an earlier letter, sent on June 23, by Rep. Schiff requesting similar information.
In a statement regarding the Saudi Embassy’s lack of response, the Members said:
“We are deeply disappointed that the Saudi government would violate diplomatic norms by ignoring our request to get answers on the well-being of women activists who remain in prison. Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan, and Nouf Abdulaziz, and Samar Badawi are all courageous women's rights activists detained in 2018 for protesting women’s oppression in Saudi Arabia. Their efforts to combat stringent male guardianship laws, restrictions on female travel, and a ban on women drivers were galvanized by a desire to advocate for the fundamental rights of women in their community—and at great personal cost. It is our hope that Ambassador Reema can find common ground in this cause, especially given her own advocacy on behalf of women business owners. The invitation for a meeting to discuss women’s rights in Saudi Arabia remains open.”
Rep. Speier is Samar Badawi’s Congressional Sponsor through the Defending Freedoms Project, a collaboration between the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Amnesty International to advocate on behalf of prisoners of conscience. Rep. Speier has repeatedly called on Saudi Arabia to cease its persecution of women’s rights defenders and immediately release and drop all charges against Samar and all imprisoned women activists.