Saudi Arabia and Iran: Women’s rights defenders featured in panel for International Women’s Day 2021 | Event

Summary by Rai Friedman, Co-chair for Amnesty International Canada’s Gender Rights team and LRWC case monitor for Saudi Arabia

On 18 March  2021, Amnesty International Canada’s Gender Rights team and Amnesty Windsor Law hosted a panel event in support of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2021. Guest speakers for this event were:

  • Gail Davidson,  Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada;
  • Safa al-Ahmad, an award-winning Saudi Arabian journalist and filmmaker;
  • Maryam Shafipour, an Iranian Woman Human Rights activists and defender;
  • Jaqueline Hansen, Amnesty International Canada’s Gender Rights Campaigner, Moderator.

The event raised awareness about Saudi Arabian women’s rights defenders Loujain al-Hathloul, Nassima al-Sada, and Samar Badawi, and Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh.  Women’s rights activists within Saudi Arabia and Iran have been fighting an upward battle for human rights and women rights issues. In Saudi Arabia, it has been more than two years since the first wave of arrests targeting prominent Saudi women’s rights activists began in 2018, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Nassima al-Sada and Samar Badawi. These women bravely campaigned for an end to the male guardianship system and led the historic campaign that secured women the right to drive in Saudi Arabia. Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent Iranian human rights lawyer, has also been detained since 2018 for defending women’s rights and protesting against Iran’s discriminatory and degrading forced veil laws.  While imprisoned, these three women have been subjected to torture, sexual harassment, ill-treatment, solitary confinement and incommunicado detention.

This panel event covered a broad range of topics including international human rights law; ongoing cases of women’s rights defenders for Loujain, Nassima, Samar, and Nasrin; political interactions within the geo-political sphere; lived and perceived traumas of human rights defenders on the ground; and what we can all do collectively and individually to stand up for human rights everywhere. An overall exhilarating conversation, these women panelists offered their unique insights and expertise on a broad range of topics that contributed to an invigorating conversation which will be remembered hereafter.

As the co-chair for Amnesty International Canada’s Gender Rights team and as the case-monitor for Saudi Arabia for Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada, I extend my deepest gratitude towards these women human rights activists that were involved in the panel event—  Gail Davidson, Safa al-Ahmad, Maryam Shafipour, and Jaqueline Hansen—for sharing their knowledge and experiences.