Update: On the 30th of April, Manahel al- Otaibi was sentenced to 11 years in prison because of her choice of clothing and support for women’s rights. The decision directly contradicts the authorities’ narrative of reform and women’s empowerment. Saudi Arabia’s authorities must immediately and unconditionally release her.

On 16 November 2022, Saudi authorities arrested 29-year-old Manahel al-Otaibi. She has been forcibly disappeared ever since.

Why? She was charged with violating the Anti-Cyber Crime Law due to her tweets in support of women’s rights. Her case has been referred from the Criminal Court in Riyadh to the Specialized Criminal Court, set up to try terrorism-related crimes. 

The Court is notorious for carrying out grossly unfair trials and handing out harsh sentences, including the death penalty, for individuals peacefully expressing themselves online. The Saudi authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Manahel al-Otaibi and drop the charges against her.

In Saudi Arabia, women’s rights activists are often detained and put through prolonged and unfair trials. 

As of January 2024, Amnesty International has documented the cases of 69 individuals who had been prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Of those, 32 were prosecuted for peacefully expressing their opinions on social media. The real number of such prosecutions is likely much higher.

Thanks to people taking action, Saudi Arabian activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison after nearly three years locked up in horrific conditions. She campaigned for women’s rights, including the right to drive.

No one should be imprisoned for tweeting about women’s rights. Take action today and demand the immediate and unconditional release of Manahel al-Otaibi.


Sign the Petition

  Our Petition
Waleed Mohammed Al Smani 
Minister of Justice Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 
Postal Code 11472, P.O. Box 7775 

Your Excellency, 

I am alarmed that Saudi authorities have forcibly disappeared Manahel al-Otaibi since November 2023. Manahel has been detained since 16 November 2022 and although her whereabouts is still unknown, she now awaits trial in front of the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) on charges of violating the Anti-Cyber Crime Law for tweeting hashtags in support of women’s rights and posting photos on Snapchat of herself at the mall wearing “immodest” clothing. Shortly before her family lost contact with her, she told them that she had been beaten violently by a fellow prisoner. 

According to court documents reviewed by Amnesty International, Manahel al-Otaibi was charged with “publishing and spreading content that contains committing public sins and inciting individuals and girls in society to renounce religious principles and social values and to violate public order and public morals on her Twitter account”, in violation of the Anti-Cybercrime Law. The charges against her are based on her social media posts which were “opposed to regulations and laws that relate to women”, including through calling to #EndMaleGuardianship. The prosecutor also referred to reports from 2018 and 2019 by the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice, also known as the religious police, who accused her of tarnishing the reputation of the Kingdom and going to the mall without wearing an abaya, promoting the removal of the hijab and posting photos of that outing on Snapchat. 

I urge you to order the immediate and unconditional release of Manahel al-Otaibi, as she is being held solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression. Meanwhile the authorities must reveal her whereabouts to her family. I also call on you to stop using the SCC to systematically silence human rights activism and freedom of expression and to repeal or substantially amend the counterterrorism and anti-cybercrime laws which criminalize peaceful dissent and enact new laws that are fully compatible with international human rights law. 

Yours sincerely,

[Your name]