Tortured with electric shocks, sexually harassed and frustrated with telephone wires. This is the fate of Saudi activists arrested last summer for having fought for the right to drive in Saudi Arabia and for the abolition of the guardian, a figure that forces them to submit to strict rules. To report it is Amnesty International.
The humanitarian organization together with Human rights watch has collected several testimonies according to which the activists (but there are also men) who have been in jail since May 2018 have suffered sexual harassment, mistreatment and torture during interrogation in the prison of Dhahban.
An activist was left hanging from the ceiling and an activist was subjected to sexual harassment while being interrogated by men with a covered face. There was also a suicide attempt.
The battle to allow women to drive has been going on for years now.
"The prohibition of driving for women is a huge obstacle to freedom of movement and severely limits the ability to carry out everyday life in the preferred way, such as going to work, shopping or picking up their children at school", as early as 2011, Philip Luther, deputy director of the North Africa and Middle East Program of Amnesty International, was already speaking.
But the Saudi authorities continue to arrest the women who rebel against the ban on driving, and the guardian who prevents the Saudis from making the most of their choices, such as working, traveling, obtaining custody of their children in the event of divorce, without the consent of a man.
"A few weeks after the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, these dramatic allegations, if confirmed, would constitute a further shameful example of human rights violations by the Saudi authorities," says Lynn Maalouf, director of research on the Middle East at Amnesty International.
The management of the Dhahban prison has repeatedly warned the detainees not to reveal their torture or current procedures to their relatives.
"The Saudi authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all the detainees only for peaceful activities in favor of human rights and must immediately launch a thorough and exhaustive investigation into these allegations of torture, bringing the perpetrators to trial", underlined Maalouf .
Torture is regularly practiced in the prisons and detention centers of Saudi Arabia, which was a signatory of the UN Convention against Torture.
Many detainees have reported during trials that they have been tortured to extract confessions, because they refused to repent or force them to promise that they would no longer criticize the government.
The arrested persons are still held without charge and without access to a lawyer. For the first three months they were held in isolation in unknown locations without being able to contact the outside world.