Last Saturday, January 5, 2013 relatives of uncharged prisoners managed to organize a small protest in Saudi Arabian city Buraida to demand the release of the prisoners. The protesters, all of them were women and children, were quickly surrounded and arrested by police forces since all methods of public dissent are strictly prohibited and harshly crushed in the absolute monarchy. This ban, however, did not stop families from organizing tens of protests and sit-ins over the past two years in every part of the country where independent human rights sources say that there are over 30,000 uncharged prisoners, many of whom were arrested in the massive, post-9/11 “war on terrorism”.
Anonymous activism group @e3teqal (which translates to “detainment”) reported that force was used when women and children were arrested [ar]:
عاجل تم توثيق الاعتداء على النساء والأطفال أثناء النقل بالقوة من قبل أحد المارة الكرام
@e3teqal: Urgent: The assault on women and children when they were transferred by force was documented by a pedestrian.
When the women and children were arrested, their relatives headed to al-Safra Prison near Buraida, where they were said to be held. Riot police surrounded the place, but the sit-in continued overnight. In the morning, the prince of Qassim province, where Buraida is, issued an order [ar] to release some of the protesters, transfer others to Riyadh (including at least one child) and continue to hold the rest in Buraida. At 2:06 PM, one of those taking part in the sit-in tweeted:
نحن اﻵن محاصرون وعدد الرجال قرابة الخمسين والنساء عشر نساء..ﻻ تنسونا من الدعاء والمناصرة بالميادين
@m44au: We were surrounded. The men are fifty and the women are ten. Pray for us, and come to help.
A video was uploaded for an old woman crying “five minutes before their arrest“.
Later that day, some of the protesters were released after pledging that they will not protest again. One of them tweeted:
شيخ طاعن بالسن بكاء بكاءًا شديدًا لمّا قال له المحقق : ماذا تريد ؟ رد عليه : لا أريد أبنائي، فقط أريد بناتي !
@majeed06: A very old man was crying a lot, when the interrogator asked him, “What do you want?” He answered: “I do not want my sons, I just want my daughters”
Three of the women arrested in the original protest were brought to court in Buraida yesterday morning, January 9, in an unprecedented timely manner. The trial was secret, and the judge insisted that only one man should accompany each of the women. Activists and relatives were kept out [ar] by court security.
The public prosecutor said that the women should be flogged for protesting:
المدعي العام ابراهيم الدهيش طالب القاضي بسجن المعتقلات وجلدهن وكان حريصا على ذلك
@abdulllah1406: The public prosecutor Ibrahim al-Dihish asked the judge to jail the detainees and to flog them and he insisted on that.
طلب القاضي من النساء عدةمرات ان يعتذرن عن التظاهر فرفضن ذلك
@abdulllah1406: The judge asked the women several times to apologize for protesting, but they refused.
قالت احدى المعتقلات والله لو تحكمون بخمس عشر سنه لن نعتذر فنحن نطالب بحق مشروع
@abdulllah1406: One of the detainees said: I swear to God that even if you sentence us to fifteen years in jail, we will not apologize. We are demanding our legitimate right.
The judge ruled that the women were guilty, but the five days they spent in detainment were enough. The rest of the women protesters, including the ones transferred to Riyadh, remain under arrest without trial.