Saudi security forces have reportedly arrested a renowned female Egyptian media activist in the holy city of Mecca while she was performing the Umrah Hajj (minor pilgrimage) as Riyadh is using arbitrary detention to target dissenting voices.
Netizens across social media announced in a series of Twitter posts that Rania al-Assal traveled to Saudi Arabia nearly 50 days ago to perform the minor pilgrimage. However, she has not been heard from ever since and her whereabouts remain unknown.
The social media activists highlighted that Assal is a staunch supporter of the anti-Israel resistance front as well as oppressed Palestinian and Yemeni nations, and has for years sharply criticized the policies of the Riyadh and Tel Aviv regimes in the West Asia region.
ورد الينا انبا۽ انه تم استدراج الاخت رانيا العسال ' الاعلاميه والناشطه المصريه و من اقوي واشد المدافعين عن مظلوميه الشعب اليمني وفلسطين والحشد الشعبي الى بيت الله الحرام وتم اختطافها من قبل نظام آل سعود وحسب المصادر هي الآن تقبع في سجون المخابرات السعوديه ولذا نطالب جميع الاحرار… pic.twitter.com/CqIVmF4T2g— هاشم احمد (@hahmed51us) March 30, 2023
The female Egyptian activist has been a trenchant critic of Riyadh’s atrocious military campaign in impoverished Yemen, and repeatedly lambasted the brutal siege against the conflict-plagued country.
The activists expressed serious concern over the fate of Assal, and called upon Saudi authorities to clarify her whereabouts.
Back in early February, Saudi regime forces detained Yemeni woman Marwa al-Sabri, while she was performing Umrah Hajj.
Yemen’s National Committee for Women condemned her arrest at the time, saying that the move was in flagrant violation of all human, moral and religious values and principles.
The committee, in a statement obtained by the official Yemeni Saba news agency, described Sabri’s detention as in line with Saudi Arabia’s unrelenting atrocities against the Yemeni nation, above all the ongoing war and blockade.
It highlighted that the Yemeni woman was subjected to harassment and verbal abuse, calling on human rights activists and institutions to denounce her detention and pressure Saudi officials to immediately release and repatriate her to Yemen.
Ever since Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto leader in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.
As a result, Islamic scholars have been executed, women’s rights campaigners have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression, association, and belief continue to be denied.
Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.