SAUDI ARABIA: Leading writer, journalist and activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider (f) at risk of imminent imprisonment.

27 September 2013 – Update #1 to RAN 25/13

PEN International is alarmed by unconfirmed reports that writer and activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider and fellow activist Fawzia al-Oyouni’s appeals against their 15 June 2013 conviction and sentence have been rejected and that they could face imminent imprisonment. PEN International calls for the the convictions against them to be overturned, and urges that all restrictions imposed on the women are lifted, in accordance with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Leading Saudi Arabian writer and journalist Wajeha Al-Huwaider has been the subject of a sustained harassment campaign since May 2003, when she was banned from publishing in Saudi Arabia.

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Please send appeals IMMEDIATELY:

  • protesting the convictions of writer and activist Wajeha Al-Huwaider, and activist Fawzia al-Oyouni, who are targeted solely for their peaceful activism in violation of their rights to freedom of expression as laid out in Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
  • reiterating calls for the sentences against them to be quashed, and for all restrictions against them to be lifted.


Crown Prince and Minister of the Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Naif bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
Ministry of the Interior
P.O.Box 2933,
Airport Road,
Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 11 403 3125

Minister of Justice
Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa
Ministry of Justice
University Street,
Riyadh 11137
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Ambassador Tom MacDonald
Embassy of Canada
P.O. Box 94321
Riyadh, 11693,
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 11 482 5670


On 24 September 2013, PEN International received an unconfirmed report that the convictions and sentences imposed on writer and activist Wajeha al-Huwaider and activist Fawzia al-Oyouni had been upheld on appeal, and that they face imminent imprisonment.  On 15 June 2013 Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni were each sentenced to 10 months in prison and two-year travel bans for helping an allegedly abused woman in distress. The case dates back to 6 June 2011, when the pair were contacted by a Canadian woman, Nathalie Morin, who had been locked in her home in the city of Dammam with her three young children by her Saudi husband without sufficient provisions. Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Oyouni arrived with food and water, and were immediately arrested. They were initially charged with kidnapping because Morin’s husband alleged they intended to take Morin and the children to the Canadian Embassy in Riyadh.

Al-Huwaider and Al-Oyouni were released on 7 June 2011, and believed the charges had been dropped. However, over a year later, in July 2012, they were called in for questioning about the Women2Drive campaign, a campaign for Saudi women to be allowed to drive which both Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni have pioneered. Following their summons they were informed that charges against them in the Morin case would be referred to court. The trial began in December 2012, and on 15 June 2013 they were found not guilty of kidnapping, but convicted of ‘Takhbib’ – inciting a woman against her husband. Al-Huwaider and al-Oyouni are appealing their convictions. Their appeal will be heard on 12 July 2013. Their convictions come as Saudi Arabia has stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents. On 24 June 2013 seven government critics were sentenced to prison terms of five to 10 ten years for allegedly inciting protests and harming public order by posting messages online, mainly on Facebook.

Leading writer and journalist Wajeha Al-Huwaider has been subjected to harassment since May 2003, when she was first banned from publishing. She continues to publish on-line and overseas, and also writes poetry and short stories. In 2004 her case was taken up by PEN International and featured in its campaign for International Women’s Day. In November 2004 she was awarded the PEN/NOVIB Free Expression award at the Hague. She is an honorary member of English and Melbourne PEN. For further background see a recent article in The Washington Post

To read some of Al-Huwaider’s writings, please click here

To read her article Saudi Women Can Drive. Just Let Them’ (published in the Washington Post on 16 August 2009) please click here.