The recent severe sentence of an underage Saudi Arabian schoolgirl by the kingdom’s legal system has drawn global attention and raised significant concerns among human rights advocacy groups. The Saudi Specialised Criminal Court sentenced 18-year-old Manal al-Gafiri to 18 years imprisonment for her social media posts advocating for political prisoners. Al-Gafiri, a secondary school student, was 17 when authorities arrested her. ALQST, a human rights organization that monitors and documents abuses in Saudi Arabia, exposed her situation to the public.
This startling case epitomizes the continuing suppression of free speech in Saudi Arabia, especially digital activism on platforms like Twitter. Under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s quasi-rule, rigid cyber activism sentences have been amplified. The government’s efforts to staunch criticism through strict punishments have created a chilling effect, hindering the society from expressing their views and curtailing human rights.