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Home > impact on women / resistance > Saudi Arabia: RELEASE SALMA NOW



Thursday 1 December 2022, by siawi3



amnesty interntional, defending human rights

Today is International Women Human Rights Defenders Day. Every single day, women around the world stand up for their human rights. Sadly, too many of these women face horrifying consequences for their activism.

I want to tell you about Salma al-Shehab.

Salma is an activist, an academic, and a mother of two from Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a minority. She is also behind bars - separated from her children, after being sentenced to 34 years in prison for using Twitter to speak out about women’s rights.

Women like Salma should be celebrated for their activism, not sentenced to decades in prison for it - especially on a platform that has a responsibility to protect our human rights.


Salma was arrested in January 2021, after she was called in for interrogation. This was just a few days before she was due to fly back to the UK, to continue her PhD studies at the University of Leeds.

She was accused, among other things, of “disturbing public order” - for using Twitter to follow, write about and support women’s rights activists. Salma was detained in solitary confinement for 285 days before she was brought to trial. She was denied access to legal representation throughout her pre-trial detention, and all of her interrogations.

Then halfway through this year, Salma was sentenced to six years behind bars under the counter-terrorism law. Then, things got even worse.

Chillingly, at her appeal trial, the prosecution demanded a harsher punishment. A judge raised Salma’s sentence to 34 years in prison, followed by a 34-year travel ban from the date of her release. Salma will not be free for 68 years.

This is the longest known prison sentence handed down against a peaceful activist, for exercising their right to free speech in Saudi Arabia.

, I know that the scale of injustice weaponized against women like Salma can leave us with feelings of utter hopelessness. But our collective action has freed women like Salma before.

Loujain al-Hathloul, a Saudi women’s rights defender - was finally released by the Saudi authorities last year, in response to relentless international pressure. Together, we must keep up the same pressure for Salma’s immediate and unconditional release.

Please join me in calling on the Saudi authorities to release Salma al-Shehab, and quash her conviction now.

In hope,
nikita white, campaigner, amnesty international

PS. When Salma was sentenced in August of this year, there was outcry all over the world. But now that months have passed, her name isn’t all over the media or our news feeds. Together, we can let the Saudi authorities know that we haven’t forgotten about Salma - and we won’t stop fighting for her release until she’s free. Please take action.