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Further Pressuring Saudi Arabia, Activist Eman al-Nafjan Wins the Prize For Bravery

Further Pressuring Saudi Arabia, Activist Eman al-Nafjan Wins the Prize For Bravery

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Tuesday 17 September 201912:00 am
إقرأ باللغة العربية:

للضغط على السعودية في قضية خاشقجي... الناشطة إيمان النفجان تحصد "جائزة الشجاعة"

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) announced on the 12th of September the winners of its freedom of the press prizes for 2019: Three journalists were awarded the price, including Saudi blogger Eman al-Nafjan, currently being awaiting trial in her country. 213 330 2040 peter issa

 During the ceremony held in Berlin, al-Nafjan was declared the winner of the "prize for bravery", while Maltese journalist Caroline Muscat claimed the "prize for independence", and Vietnamese blogger Phạm Đoan Trang the "prize for influence". According to Reporters Without Borders, the common factor shared between the three journalists was "the fear that was imposed on them in their daily lives, the prohibition from leaving their country, and the shutting-down of their online sites and pages." The organization expressed its hope that the prizes would aid in pressuring their relevant governments.

Who Is Eman al-Nafjan?

Al-Nafjan is one of the human rights and feminist activists who were arrested during a campaign of arrests in May 2018; she operates a blog named "Saudiwoman" which she set up in the year 2008, writing on women issues in her country. Prominent amongst the demands during this period was to allow Saudi women to drive cars, with al-Nafjan participating in a protest campaign to empower women to drive during the period stretching from 2011 to 2013  - a demand which was eventually fulfilled by the Saudi authorities.

Accordingly, al-Nafjan joined a group of prominent activists, including Loujain Alhathloul and Hatoon al-Fassi, in their efforts to recognize the right of women to drive cars freely inside the kingdom in June 2018.

After the eventual attainment of their goals, the activists were nonetheless kept in imprisonment despite international criticisms and calls for their release. The activists were accused of involvement in "coordinated activity to undermine security, stability and social peace in the Kingdom", according to the Saudi public prosecutor.

Al-Nafjan was released after sources revealed details from a court hearing on the 28th of March 2019, where she said she tried to commit suicide after the torture, beatings and violations she was subjected to, to extract confessions to false charges

Last March however, al-Nafjan would be released temporarily and on the condition of attending court proceedings and remaining in the country, along with the two activists Roqiya al-Mohareb and Aziza al-Yousef.

Al-Nafjan would be finally released after sources revealed the details from a court hearing on the 28th of March 2019, where she said she tried to commit suicide after the torture and violations she was subjected to – testifying to the judges that investigators sexually harassed her and touched sensitive parts of her body, as well as beating her with a thick stick in order to extract confessions to false charges.

Deserving the Prize

Reporters Without Borders aim primarily to exercise pressure on governments; accordingly, the prize received by al-Nafjan came as a "direct result" of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year in his country's consulate in Istanbul, according to a spokeswoman of the organization.

On the announcement of al-Nafjan's winning of the prize, Susanne Koelbl – a journalist in the German "Der Spiegel" newspaper – declared: "We congratulate Eman al-Nafjan on winning the prize for bravery for this year; she is a defender of the rights of women against the current regime of custodianship in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia."

Because of her ban from leaving Saudi Arabia, the prize was received in al-Nafjan's absence by her former student Omayma al-Najjar, who is also a blogger who defends the rights of Saudi women from her place of residence in Italy.

Al-Najjar declared to the German "Deutsche Welle" media outlet that "the Saudi government often strives to polish its image at the moments in which its brutality appears evident to others" – citing the lifting of the prohibition of women driving in the Kingdom which she attributed to "the Kingdom's role in acts of brutality in Yemen after it became evident to all."

She added: "After the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Saudi Arabia received strong reactions from media organizations, so after a short period it released some women activists, so that the world can be appeased and somewhat forget Khashoggi."

The Saudi blogger further pointed out that dozens remain detained in Saudi prisons because of their "writings about the regime in blogs or their expressions of sympathy with those bloggers," adding that "the majority of them are facing charges relating to terrorism, but after international pressure and the reaction by media organizations, the government changed the charges to electronic [online] crimes."

It should be noted that a delegation of "Reporters Without Borders" had visited the Saudi capital Riyadh and held "secret meetings with high-ranking Saudi officials" over a period of three days last April, in an effort to secure the release of thirty detained journalists in the Kingdom, according to reporting by the British "Guardian" newspaper citing two officials in the organization last July.

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