By Daniel McElroy
Claiming that two unnamed foreign countries have funded dissidents against Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabian authorities have detained upwards of 30 prominent clerics, scholars, poets, and journalists in the past week.
This unparalleled number of arrests comes after Prince Mohammed became heir to the throne on June 21 and rumors of his father’s intent to abdicate began swirling. It is well known that Prince Mohammed has been at the helm of economic, diplomatic, and domestic policy for a long time, but respect for Saudis’ rights has decreased markedly since he took his current position. The summer saw a drastic increase in executions and trials of human rights activists.
The Saudi government claimed that those arrested had received support from foreign powers to aid the actions of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Houthis, a Yemeni Islamist group, both of which Saudi Arabia considers to be terror organizations. Officials have remained mostly silent about the arrests, but the attorney general issued a vague warning soon after the arrests that any attack on “national unity” or the “image of the state” would be considered terrorism.
Meanwhile, critics of the decision to arrest so many well known religious and intellectual leaders have spent the past week circulating a list of those detained on social media. Arrested individuals include Islamic preacher Salman al-Awda, who is known for his belief in reform and greater respect for human rights in Saudi Arabia, as well as many people not previously linked to any sort of political opposition.
The Voice Project stands against this mass detention of public and religious figures in Saudi Arabia, and will continue monitoring the story for updates.