Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Defence John Brady TD, has spoken out strongly about the continued imprisonment of Saudi Arabian women human rights defenders, as imprisoned activist Loujain Al Hathloul continues with a week-long hunger strike.
Teachta Brady has written to the Saudi Arabian Ambassador outlining his concerns.
Teachta Brady said: “The continued imprisonment of women human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia is an outrage. I have met with and continue to work with NGOs around this issue. In October I wrote to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney outlining my concern, and to ask what the Irish government could do to assist these women.
“While I welcome the efforts of the government regarding the plight of human rights defenders in the Middle East, and women human rights defenders in particular, I believe that more can, and must be done.
“Women such as Samar Badawi, Nassjma AlSaada and Loujain AlHathloul are being subjected to torture (including flogging and electric shocks), sexual abuse and solitary confinement on a daily basis. They cannot afford to wait for the niceties of international diplomacy to be observed by countries such as Ireland, and the EU.
“The oppressive system of male guardianship in Saudi Arabia restricts women from enjoying basic civil rights which are taken for granted in Ireland. They must often gain permission from a male guardian for many of the most mundane of everyday decisions and actions.
“The crime of these women human rights defenders is to dare to ask to be treated as equals.
“Some of the charges against Loujain Al Hathloul include communicating with journalists and attempting to apply for a job with the United Nations.
“And while Ireland has worked alongside other EU Member States to ensure that human rights issues in Saudi Arabia are being raised with the authorities there, this does not appear to be having the impact that is required.
“An EU Delegation has raised the cases of the detention of women human rights defenders directly with the Saudi authorities on multiple occasions and at various levels, again to little avail.
“I believe that Ireland, as a nation set to take up its position on the UN Security Council needs to utilise its position and status to bring the focus of the world on the plight of oppressed human rights defenders across the globe.
“I have written to the Saudi Arabian Ambassador, setting out my concerns, and hope that that pressure can be brought to bear to aid these women.
“In the week when the Irish people remember the courage and sacrifice of two of our imprisoned heroes who sacrificed all for freedom, Terence McSweeney, and Kevin Barry, we as a nation are particularly morally bound to speak out and campaign for those such as Loujain Al Hathloul who have been left with nothing but their bodies to fight back against their oppressors.
“I call again on the Irish government to show leadership on this issue, I call on the members of the Dáil, our elected representatives to give voice to their support to these women.”