Saudi Arabia Fitness Influencer Gets 11-Year Sentence For Her ‘Choice Of Clothing’: Amnesty International

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Female fitness instructor

Saudi Arabia has confirmed in a letter to the United Nations that a Saudi Arabian female influencer who is popular online received an 11-year prison sentence over unspecified “terrorism offenses.” The letter, dated Jan. 25 and sent to the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, did not specify the nature of the alleged offenses.

While the kingdom asserted that the case was unrelated to the instructor’s online presence, human rights activists argue that the conviction of Manahel al-Otaibi highlights the limitations on freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia. According to Amnesty International and ALQST, a London-based human rights group, al-Otaibi’s charges were related to her choice of clothing and expression of her views online, including advocacy for the end of Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system and liberal dress codes for women.

The joint statement issued by the human rights organizations emphasized that Manahel al-Otaibi’s Instagram posts and other social media platforms such as Twitter, and Snapchat included advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and the abolition of Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship laws. She has been detained since November 2022, while her sister Fouz faced similar charges and fled Saudi Arabia.

The kingdom’s letter to the U.N. emphasized that exercising and defending rights are not crimes under Saudi law. However, it condemned attempts to justify terrorist actions by describing them as exercising or protecting rights. The case of al-Otaibi underscores ongoing concerns about human rights and freedom of expression in Saudi Arabia, despite recent reforms that have relaxed some social restrictions, including allowing women to drive since 2018.

The imprisonment of the Saudi Arabian influencer has drawn international attention and raised concerns about the protection of human rights in Saudi Arabia. Critics argue that her case exemplifies the broader pattern of repression against individuals who express dissenting views or advocate for social change in the kingdom. The Saudi government’s response, while asserting the legality of exercising and defending rights, has been met with skepticism from human rights organizations, which continue to call for transparency and accountability in cases of alleged rights abuses.

Additionally, the Saudi Arabian influencer scandal sheds light on the challenges faced by women activists and advocates in Saudi Arabia. Despite some reforms aimed at improving women’s rights, such as lifting the ban on driving, women who speak out against the government or challenge societal norms still risk severe repercussions, including imprisonment. The case of al-Otaibi underscores the ongoing struggle for gender equality and the need for more excellent protection of women’s rights in the kingdom. As international pressure mounts on Saudi Arabia to address these issues, the fate of individuals like al-Otaibi remains a focal point in the global debate over human rights and freedom of expression.

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