Women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia were arrested last week, reports The Washington Post, just weeks before the nation lifts a ban on women driving.
Several of the seven activists who were jailed were leaders in the campaign to allow women to obtain driver's licenses, which the Saudi government approved last year. Five women and two men were detained on charges of "suspicious contact with foreign parties" and "undermining the country's stability and social fabric," the Post reports.
One of the detainees, Loujain Hathloul, was arrested in 2014 after driving into Saudi Arabia to protest the driving ban. Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan, and Aziza al-Yousef have also vocally opposed the nation's male guardianship system, which requires men to accompany women to access government services, reports BuzzFeed News.
Groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have denounced the arrests, calling the activists victims of a "chilling smear campaign" by government officials. The Saudi government has pledged to reform many of its laws regarding its social structure and women's rights, but activists and advocacy groups say the reality of the kingdom's advancements is far from what officials have claimed. Summer Meza