09 May 2019

Rector supports imprisoned researcher and human rights activist

Scholars at risk

The Rector of the University of Copenhagen supports the Saudi Arabian historian and human rights activist Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi in a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia.

Update 10 May 2019: According to Scholars at Risk, Dr. Al-Fassi, along with other detainees, have been temporarily released from prison. They do not yet have information indicating when, if ever, she will return to prison or if the authorities will drop charges against her.

Rector Henrik C. Wegener gives his support to Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi, who was arrested by the authorities of Saudi Arabia in June 2018, in a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia. Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi is an associate professor at the King Saud University where she is a researcher in women’ history. Since 2005, Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi has been fighting for women’s rights and gender equality in Saudi Arabia. She has been fighting for women’s suffrage, women’s right to drive and women’s right to access the al-Haram mosque in Mekka, among other things.

Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi
Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi. Photo: Scholars at Risk

Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi was arrested in apparent retaliation for the peaceful work she has been doing for very basic and fundamental human rights.

Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi was arrested on June 24, 2018, and has since then been held at a secret location. On June 19, 2018, only few days before her arrest, she announced that she had been the subject of a travel ban.

The University of Copenhagen has been an active member of the international network Scholars at Risk (SAR) since June 2016. SAR is an international network of institutions and individuals whose mission it is to protect scholars and promote academic freedom. The support letter for Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi has been issued as part of the membership of the SAR network.

On March 7, 2018, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva (UNHCR) received an open statement from 36 member nations, including Denmark, regarding the human-rights situation in Saudi Arabia. This statement expresses their concern for human rights in Saudi Arabia and they have asked the UNHCR to improve the conditions. The concern is rooted in the many arrests and detentions of women’s rights activists. At the same time, they use the statement to criticize the way Saudi Arabia is acting towards individuals who peacefully fight for freedom and rights in the country. They use Dr. Hatoon al-Fassi as a concrete example of the issues.