2 U.S. Dual Citizens Held in Saudi Crackdown on Dissent, Rights Groups Say – The New York Times

Among them was Ayman al-Drees, the husband of a Saudi feminist activist, Malak al-Shehri, who had fled to the United States last year after the other women’s rights activists had been arrested. In 2016, Ms. al-Shehri herself was arrested after defying the kingdom by tweeting a photo of herself not wearing a head scarf or an abaya, part of a protest against the conservative dress code that governs Saudi women.

She was later released, but on Friday, her husband called her from his family’s farm in Saudi Arabia to tell her that he saw men “coming for him,” she said in a phone interview on Friday from California.

Sounding frightened, he told her to be careful, she said, and that he loved her, before hanging up.

Ms. al-Shehri said that her husband, who worked as an insurance underwriter, had muted his own activist posts on Twitter out of fear two years ago and had recently limited himself to translating feminist videos from English into Arabic to help spread awareness about feminist ideas in Saudi Arabia.

“We didn’t expect this, because he didn’t do anything wrong. He did nothing,” said Ms. al-Shehri, her voice breaking. “He was being careful, but it didn’t work.”

She said she had urged him to join her in the United States, but he had refused, partly because he did not think he would be a target, and partly because his income in Saudi Arabia went to support his wife.

Also among the group of recent detainees, according to Prisoners of Conscience, another rights group, was Yazed al-Faife, a journalist for a state-owned newspaper, Al Sharq. He had recently appeared in a video accusing Saudi officials of habitually neglecting parts of southern Saudi Arabia and suggesting that some officials’ dealings there had been corrupt.

Mr. al-Faife said that poverty, lack of opportunity and poor infrastructure along the Saudi border with Yemen had allowed Iranian intelligence to destabilize the area and incite discontent in the Saudi population there. This, too, may have been sensitive territory in the authorities’ eyes: Saudi Arabia, with its ally the United Arab Emirates, has drawn strong criticism globally for its destructive war in Yemen against the Houthis, a militant group believed to be propped up by Iran.


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