Since taking over the G20 presidency, Saudi Arabia has invested extensively in reshaping its image, launching slogans about women’s equality and insisting that it is ready for change. But the real pioneers of change in Saudi Arabia are behind bars.
Loujain Al-Hathloul, Nassima Al-Sada, Samar Badawi, Maya Al-Zahrani, and Nouf Abdel Aziz have spearheaded campaigns to defend women’s rights, including their demand for the right to drive, and an end to the oppressive male guardianship system. But while Saudi Arabia is promoting recent reforms such as loosening social restrictions and strict male guardianship to appeal to the rich and powerful at the G20 business summit, women’s rights activists remain in detention.
“Since Saudi Arabia assumed the presidency of the G20, it has invested extensively in reshaping its image, chanting slogans about women’s equality and insisting that they are ready for change,” said Lynn Maalouf, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. But the real pioneers of change in Saudi Arabia remain. Behind bars. ”
“The leaders of the G20 Business Summit should not be fooled by this disgraceful hypocrisy, and we call on them to show a concern for human rights that matches their concern for business opportunities. Every company operating in or with Saudi Arabia has a responsibility to ensure that it does not contribute to human rights violations through its activities.”
The G20 Business Summit is the official forum for business leaders to present policy recommendations to the G20 ahead of the main summit in November. Notable participants this year include representatives from HSBC, MasterCard, PwC, McKinsey, Cisco, ENI, Siemens, Accenture and BPVA.
Public relations campaign Ridiculous
Saudi Arabia has touted the fact that 33% of business delegates to the G20 this year are women – the highest likelihood ever. The G20 Business Summit website says that “women in business” will be the “special theme” for Saudi Arabia as the group’s chair.
These events mark the culmination of a fierce PR campaign led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who promised to provide equal opportunities as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 strategy.
Following the announcement of the Vision 2030 plan, women were granted the right to drive in June 2018. This was a step towards equal employment opportunities that gave women in Saudi Arabia a slight vow of freedom and independence. But just weeks before this change was announced, the authorities launched a crackdown on human rights defenders and arrested many of those who called for the right to drive.
If the G20 Business Summit in Saudi Arabia were as progressive as it claims, then the activists who have done so much to ensure that women have more rights would have grabbed their seats at its table.
Currently, 13 women’s rights defenders remain on trial and face prosecution for their human rights work. A number of activists are facing charges of contacting foreign media and communicating with international organizations, including Amnesty International. Some activists were also accused of “promoting women’s rights” and “calling for an end to the system of male guardianship over women.” Of the thirteen women, five of them remain in detention: Loujain Al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nasima Al-Sada, Nouf Abdel Aziz, and Maya Al-Zahrani. . The Saudi authorities continue to systematically silence dissenting voices and suppress freedom of expression with their use The Specialized Criminal Court To target economists, teachers, clerics, writers, activists, and others who have been calling for change. Human rights defenders face arbitrary detention, unfair trials and torture.
Amnesty International urges business leaders at the G20 Business Summit to not turn a blind eye to these violations; All commercial companies have a responsibility to ensure that they do not harm human rights. They are expected to exercise human rights due diligence in order to identify, prevent their occurrence and mitigate the risks to human rights arising from their activities and those carried out within their supply chain and business relationships.
Amnesty International has written to companies participating in the G20 Business Summit, raising serious concerns about the risks to human rights posed by business operations in and with Saudi Arabia, and reminding them of their human rights responsibilities.
Lynn Maalouf said, “We urge delegates of the G20 Business Summit to think carefully about how their trademarks may contribute to legitimizing human rights violations and support the Saudi Arabia investor attraction campaign.”
“If the G20 Business Summit in Saudi Arabia were as progressive as it claims, the activists who have done so much to ensure that women obtain more rights would have occupied their seats at its table.”