Drop Baseless Investigation of US Citizen in Saudi Arabia

US Citizen in Saudi Arabia | DC (Washington)Human Rights Watch stated today that Saudi authorities should end a case that could result in formal criminal charges being brought against a US citizen living in Saudi Arabia for “disturbing the public order.

US Citizen in Saudi Arabia

” The accusation, according to Carly Morris, 34, is connected to her social media posts in which she expressed worry about how Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system has harmed her and her daughter, 8, as well as herself.

Morris must appear in the public prosecution court in Buraydah, in the al-Qassim region, on September 18, 2022, according to a formal summons that Human Rights Watch has reviewed. The summons references Article 103 of the Criminal Procedure Law, which gives prosecutors the right to detain and/or arrest a subject of an investigation.

Sarah Yager, Washington campaign director for Human Rights Watch, said: “The Saudi authorities are conveying the message once again that anybody merely questioning their draconian and discriminatory rules might be a target for detention and prosecution.”

“US officials must pay attention to Carly Morris’ cries for assistance and take every precaution to shield her and her daughter from the oppression perpetrated by their Saudi ally.”

Morris told Human Rights Watch that she thinks the investigation has something to do with tweets she made in April 2022 in which she complained about how Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system prevents her from leaving the country with her daughter, carrying out parental responsibilities like getting medical care, or making decisions about her daughter’s education without the consent of her ex-husband. Only men are permitted to serve as a child’s guardian in Saudi Arabia.

Women have little control over their children’s life and are not permitted to serve as guardians. Even more limitations apply to women who are foreign nationals.

The Middle East Eye wrote about Morris’ situation in August. Morris claims that because of her tweets, her ex-husband informed her in May that he had started a “slander and defamation” case against her; yet, the September court summons simply mentions “disturbing public order.

” This accusation’s justification is still a mystery. The overbroad allegation of “disrupting public order” is frequently used against Saudi dissidents and others for speaking out. Morris expressed her concern that she may face legal action since she spoke up about her circumstances online.

Tala, Morris’ 8-year-old daughter, was born there. Morris wed her ex-husband in 2013, and they got divorced in 2018. For a brief visit between her daughter and ex-husband, she and her daughter traveled to Saudi Arabia in August 2019.

Their passports and Tala’s US birth certificate were taken shortly after their arrival, according to Morris, who also claimed that her ex-husband kept the papers for several months before giving them back.

Without her knowledge or consent, she claimed that her ex-husband used the papers to apply for and successfully get Saudi citizenship for their daughter.

Morris claimed that her ex-husband now had her passport back, but she claimed that he still holds Tala’s Saudi and US passports, birth certificate, and other documents “hostage” and has delayed Tala’s family card until this week. Morris is unable to leave the nation with Tala without these papers or his consent as Tala’s male guardian.

Morris maintains primary custody of her daughter in Saudi Arabia, but she claims that without her daughter’s documents, she is unable to make crucial choices regarding her education, arrange for her to receive medical care, or take advantage of the established alimony fund or pension service that she would otherwise be entitled to as a divorced mother of a Saudi child in Saudi Arabia.

Morris claimed that her requests for her daughter’s identifying documents have been routinely turned down by the General Directorate of Passports’ Buraydah branch. She also asked for the paperwork from the civil status office, but the staff there informed her that foreign moms were “not authorized” to receive copies.

The Civil Status Law in Saudi Arabia was amended in 2016, allowing Saudi and non-Saudi mothers and widows to obtain crucial identification documents for their children, including family cards, without the consent of a male guardian.

Morris claimed that she started tweeting about her plight in April 2022 but has since erased the tweets. Human Rights Watch has examined Morris’ since-deleted tweets in which she describes herself as a Saudi Arabian mother who needs assistance getting her daughter’s records.

Morris claimed that in late May, she was summoned to the Buraydah police station for questioning. She was then shown a “huge file” that Morris claims had screenshots of WhatsApp communications that were not hers and “screenshots of [her] Twitter profile.”

At the summons hearing, Morris should have easy access to an embassy representation and an Arabic-language interpreter, according to Human Rights Watch. Morris should also receive assistance from US embassy staff in getting her daughter’s identifying documents from the civil status and General Directorate of Passports agencies.

The Saudi prosecution service is an important instrument of Saudi repression and has been used to terrorise peaceful Saudi dissidents through a variety of tactics, such as harassment, endless summonses for questioning, arbitrary detention, and prosecution in flagrantly unfair trials on baseless charges. The royal court receives direct reports from the public prosecutor.

Saudi women still need a male guardian’s consent to be married, release prison, or receive some sorts of health care, despite recent advances to women’s rights, which include enabling women over 21 to obtain passports and travel abroad like men do without parental consent. Additionally, prejudice against women still exists in the areas of marriage, family, divorce, and choices involving children, such as child custody.

The Personal Status Law, which was passed in March 2022 and codifies discrimination against women, stipulates that women must obtain the consent of a male guardian before getting married and, once getting married, must submit to their spouse.

At least two other women have lately received similar convictions and sentences from Saudi courts for their nonviolent online statements. Salma al-Shehab, a Saudi doctorate candidate at the University of Leeds, was given a 34-year prison term on August 9 by an appeals court for “disrupt[ing] the order and fabric of society.” Nourah bin Saeed al-Qahtani was given a 45-year prison term by Saudi judges the same day for “using the internet to shred the [nation’s] social fabric.”

Since US President Joe Biden visited Jeddah in July, the assault on peaceful speech by Saudi authorities has only become worse, according to Yager. Biden’s public break with his pledge to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for widespread abuses was met with even harsher repression, particularly against women.

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