More than 200 sign letter supporting Hatoon al-Fassi

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His Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud
King of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the two Holy Mosques
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125

His Royal Highness Prince Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud
Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of the Interior) +966 11 403 3125

January 16, 2019

Your Majesty, Your Royal Highness:

It is almost seven months that Dr. Hatoon Ajwad al-Fassi, world-renowned Saudi scholar, professor, writer and women’s rights advocate has been in detention in Saudi Arabia. Her arrest, on 21 June, coincided with the lifting of the ban on women’s driving in the kingdom. We are very concerned about Dr. al-Fassi. Furthermore, her arrest and that of other women’s rights advocates provide evidence of the deeply troubling turn in what has been publicized as a reformist, modernizing agenda. 

Until recently, Dr. al-Fassi was Associate Professor of Women’s History at King Saud University in Riyadh where she had been a faculty member since 1992. She is the author of two important books -- Sanawat fi ‘Umr Al-Mar’ah Al-Saudiyyah [Years in the Lives of Saudi Women] (2018) and Women in Pre-Islamic Arabia: Nabataea (2007), and numerous articles and book chapters on the lives and status of women in the Arabian Peninsula, in the ancient world as well as in the contemporary period. A highly-respected historian of international stature, she has received numerous honors and accolades, among them, induction in 2008 into the prestigious “Ordre des Palmes Académiques” - a French order of knighthood for distinguished academics and figures in the world of education and culture. Alongside her scholarship, Dr. al-Fassi has written since 1993 a widely-read, weekly column on contemporary social affairs in al-Riyadh newspaper.

Dr. al-Fassi is, as well, a prominent advocate for women’s rights. In Saudi Arabia, she was engaged, for years, in efforts to lift the ban on women driving. She was also involved in initiatives to allow and encourage women’s full participation in municipal elections, and she co-founded the “Baladi” campaign to empower women who wanted to participate. In addition, she led the campaign to include women in the Majlis al-Shura (Consultative Assembly) in Saudi Arabia. That campaign resulted in the appointment in 2013, for the first time, of thirty women members. In 1993, she founded the Sunday Forum, a monthly gathering of women with lectures on a wide range of issues; the Forum continues to convene and remains an important resource for women.

Dr. al-Fassi has done much to enhance the lives of women and she has done so with wisdom, dedication, dignity and altruism. She enjoys an enormous and devoted following, not only in the Gulf region, but throughout the Middle East and North Africa, as well as in Asia, Europe and North America. She is, indeed, one of the best known and most respected of Middle Eastern women scholars and rights advocates.

In the weeks leading up to the much-anticipated lifting of the ban on women driving on 24 June, a reported sixteen advocates for women’s rights were detained in the Kingdom; and since the lifting of the ban, several more women have been detained. At a time when the Saudi leadership seeks to present an image of itself as engaged in a program of progressive change, these arrests undermine that program by demonstrating a disconnect between stated policy and practice. 

We call upon the Saudi government to release Dr. Hatoon Ajwad al-Fassi and other women’s rights advocates who remain in detention. Dr. al-Fassi should be allowed to continue her most valuable work as scholar, writer, mentor and advocate for the greater good of her country, her fellow citizens, and women throughout the region and the world.


Guido Abbattista, Professor of Modern History, University of Trieste, Italy

Khaled Abou El-Fadl, Omar and Azmeralda Alfi Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law, USA

Chowdhury Rafqul Abrar, Professor of International Relations, University of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Susan Abulhawa, novelist

Lila Abu-Lughod, Professor, Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, Columbia University, USA  

Karen Abu Zayd, Commissioner, Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, United Nations Human Rights Council 

Melanie Adrian, Professor, Department of Law and Legal Studies, Carleton University, Canada

Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad, Minaret of Freedom Institute, Maryland, USA

Aziz Al-Azmeh, University Professor Emeritus, Department of History, Central European University, Hungary

Nadia Al-Bagdadi, Central European University, Hungary

Rafiah Altalei, member: International Press Institute, Vienna, Austria

Bethsabé Andía, Researcher, Instituto Runa, Lima, Perú

Jacqueline Armijo, Associate Professor of the Humanities, Asian University for Women, Chittagong, Bangladesh

Zainah Anwar, Executive Director, Musawah, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Talal Asad, Professor of Anthropology, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, US

Elsa Roberts Auerbach, Professor Emerita, University of Massachusetts-Boston, USA

Sabrine Azraq, Projects Coordinator, Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW), Canada

Margot Badran, Georgetown University, USA

Sverre Bagge, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Bergen, Norway

Radhika Balakrishnan, Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University, USA

Upendra Baxi, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Warwick, UK and Delhi, India Distinguished Professor of Law, National Law University of Delhi

Michelle Bellino, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan, USA

Lourdes Beneria, Professor Emerita, Dept. of City and Regional Planning, Cornell University, USA

Marnix Beyen, Professor of Modern Political History at the University of Antwerp, Belgium

Anna Bigelow, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, North Carolina State University, USA

Akeel Bilgrami, Sidney Morgenbesser Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University, USA

Guido Bonsaver, Professor of Italian Cultural History, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, Oxford University, UK

Bernadette Booij, editor & writer, The Netherlands

Mineke Bosch, Professor of Modern History, Faculty of Arts, RUG, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Carolina Bracco, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

John Braithwaite, Professor, School of Regulation and Global Governance, Australian National University, Australia

Daniel Brauer, Professor, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina

Kathrin Braun, Research coordinator, Co-editor Critical Policy Studies, Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Risiko- und Innovationsforschung (ZIRIUS), Stuttgart, Germany

Victoria Brittain, journalist and author

Claire Bruyere, Professor Emerita of American Studies, Université PARIS-Diderot, France

Peter Burke, FBA, Emmanuel College- University of Cambridge, UK

Judith Butler, Maxine Elliot Professor of Comparative Literature, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Charles E. Butterworth, Emeritus Professor, Department of Government & Politics, University of Maryland, USA

Juan E. Campo, Department of Religious Studies, Faculty Director, University of California, Santa Barbara, USA

Kathleen Cavanaugh, lecturer, Irish Centre for Human Rights, Faculty of Law, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland

Cléo Chassonnery-Zaïgouche, Centre Walras-Pareto, Université de Lausanne, Switzerland

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Linguistics and Philosophy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

Radhika Chopra, Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Delhi, India

Helena Cobban, Executive President, Just World Educational

Isabelle Cochelin, Associate Professor, Centre for Medieval Studies and Department of History, University of Toronto, Canada

Natalie Zemon Davis, Professor of History emeritus, Henry Charles Lea Professor of History emeritus, Princeton University, USA

Antoon De Baets, Professor of History, Ethics and Human Rights, History Dept, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Marjan de Groot-Reuvekamp, Professor, Fontys University of Applied Sciences, the Netherlands

Marijke Delemarre, Policy Officer Radboud University, The Netherlands

Jaap den Hollander, Emeritus Dept. of History, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

Raymond Detrez, Professor of Balkan Studies, Ghent University, Belgium

Sandra McGee Deutsch, University of Texas at El Paso, USA

Monique Deveaux, Professor of Philosophy, University of Guelph, Canada 

Daho Djerbal, Maître de conférences en histoire contemporaine, Université d'Alger 2, Algeria

Pilar Domínguez Prats, Profesora de Historia del Pensamiento Político y Movimientos Sociales, Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain

Cheryl Duckworth, Professor of Conflict Resolution and Peace Education, Editor in Chief, Peace and Conflict Studies Journal, Dept. of Conflict Resolution Studies, College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Nova Southeastern University, Florida, USA

Michele Dunne, Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, USA

Marten Düring, Assistant Professor, Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, University of Luxembourg

Suzanne Egan, Associate Professor, UCD School of Law, Director, UCD Centre for Human Rights, Dublin, Ireland

Büşra Ersanli, Professor emerita of Political Science, İstanbul, Turkey

Pepe Escobar, Correspondent-at-Large, Asia Times, Hong Kong

John L. Esposito, University Professor and Founding Director of the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding, Georgetown University, USA

Eddo Evink, Professor in Philosophy, Open University of the Netherlands

Mohammad Fadel, Professor of Law, University of Toronto Faculty of Law, Canada

Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law, Princeton University, USA

Erica Ferg, Assistant Professor, Regis University, USA

Maribel Fierro, Research Professor, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Spain

Mirosław Filipowicz, Professor of History at John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

Melissa Finn, Adjunct Professor, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada

Caroline Fleay, Associate Professor, Curtin University, Australia

André Augusto da Fonseca, Professor, Roraima State University & regional director of National History Association, Brazil

Ulrike Freitag, Director, Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin, Germany

Willem Frijhoff, Professor of Cultural History at the Erasmus University, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Ester Gallo, Assistant Professor in Anthropology, University of Trento, Italy 

David Gaun, Center for Baltic and East European Studies, Sodertorn University, Stockholm, Sweden

Irene Gendzier, Professor Emeritus, Boston University, USA

Súsanna Margrét Gestsdóttir, Historian and Vice Principal, Ármúli Secondary College, Reykjavík, Iceland

David N. Gibbs, Professor of History, University of Arizona, USA

Adolfo Gilly, Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Political and Social Sciences, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico

Shaista Gohir OBE, Muslim Women’s Network, U.K.

Heather Goodall, Professor Emerita, History, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Deborah Goldsmith, Professor, Economics, City College of San Francisco, USA

Maria Grever, professor Theory and Methods of History, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Zareena Grewal, Associate Professor, American Studies & Religious Studies, Yale University, USA

Ariela Gross, John B. and Alice R. Sharp Professor of Law and History, University of Southern California, USA

Nahla Haidar el Addal, member: United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Abdellah Hammoudi, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Anthropology, Princeton University, USA

Bahey eldin Hassan, Director, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Egypt

Amy Hawthorne, Deputy Director for Research, Project on Middle East Democracy, USA

Eric Heinze, Professor of Law & Humanities, Centre for Law, Democracy, and Society, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London, UK

Marieke Hendriksen, Senior researcher, Utrecht University, Netherlands

Joan Hoffman, Professor Emerita, Department of Economics, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, USA

Homa Hoodfar, Professor of Anthropology, Emerita, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

Carel Horstmeier, Lecturer in International Relations, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Islah Jad, Associate Professor, Gender and Cultural Studies, Bir Zeit University, Palestine

Faisal Javaid, Assistant Professor, Department of International Relations, Federal Urdu University, Pakistan

Huda Jawad, Trustee, Ending Violence against Women Coalition, U.K.

Goffe Jensma, Chair of Frisian Language and Culture, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Alfredo Joignant, Professor in Political Science, Universidad Diego Portales, Chile

Nadia Jones-Gailani, Department of Gender Studies, Central European University, Hungary

Suad Joseph, Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, University of California, Davis, USA

Dietrich Jung, Professor and Head of the Centre for Contemporary Middle East Studies, University of Southern Denmark

Louis Kampf, Prof. Emeritus of Humanities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA

Deniz Kandiyoti, Emeritus Professor, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK

Ousmane Kane, Alwaleed Professor of Contemporary Islamic Religion and Society, Harvard University, USA

Karin Karlekar, Director: Free Expression At Risk Programs, PEN America

Alexander Karn, Professor of History, Director, Peace and Conflict Studies Program, Colgate University, USA

Maite Karssenberg, Independent historical researcher, The Netherlands

Suvir Kaul, Department of English, University of Pennsylvania, USA

Judith Keene, Professor, Dept of History, University of Sydney, Australia

Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Modern Arab Studies & Director of Middle East Institute, School of Public and International Affairs, Columbia University, USA

Rami Khouri, Adjunct Professor of Journalism and Journalist-in-Residence, Media Studies Program, American University of Beirut, Lebanon

Karen-Lise S. Knudsen, Chair: Scholars at Risk, Norway

Louis M. Kyriakoudes, Director, The Albert Gore Research Center, Middle Tennessee State University, USA

Asma Lamrabet, doctor and writer, Morocco

Maria Lantz, Konstfack, University of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm, Sweden

Thomas W. Laqueur, Helen Fawcett Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of California, Berkeley

Clara E. Lida, Centro de Estudios Históricos, El Colegio de México, Mexico City

Zachary Lockman, Professor, New York University, USA

Jan Löfström, Associate Professor, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki, Finland

Summer Lopez, Senior Director of Free Expression Programs, PEN America

Miriam Lowi, Professor, The College of New Jersey, USA

Paweł Machcewicz, Professor of History, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw, Poland

Arien Mack, Alfred and Monette Marrow Professor of Psychology, The New School for Social Research, New York, USA

Gaurav Majumdar, Associate Professor of English, Whitman College, USA

Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government, Columbia University, USA

Peter Mandaville, Professor, George Mason University, USA

Shula Marks, Emeritus Professor and Fellow of the British Academy (retired), historian, School of Oriental and African Studies, London, UK

Stephen McInerney, Executive Director, Project on Middle East Democracy, USA

Rashid Memon, Professor of Economics, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan

Brinkley Messick, Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, USA

Ziba Mir-Husseini, Professorial Research Associate, Centre for Islamic and Middle Eastern Law

SOAS, University of London, UK

Anne Morelli, professor, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium

Chandra Muzaffar, President, International Movement for a Just World (JUST), Malaysia

Rosemary Nagy, Professor, Gender Equality & Social Justice, Nipissing University, Canada

Mira Nair, film director

Nadya Nedelsky, Professor and Chair of International Studies, Macalester College, USA

Aryeh Neier, President Emeritus, Open Society Foundations, USA

Jane O. Newman, Department of Comparative Literature, UC Irvine, USA

Tim Niblock, Professor of Middle East Politics, University of Exeter, UK

Liisa L. North, Professor Emeritus, York University, Toronto, Canada

Suzanne Nossel, CEO: PEN America

Nargis Nurulla-Khodzhaeva, Moscow State University, Russia

Sunday Abraham Ogunode, Lecturer, Department of History and International Studies, Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State, Nigeria

Gwenn Okruhlik, founder & past president, Association for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies,  USA

Ignacio Olábarri, Emeritus Professor of Contemporary History, University of Navarra, Spain

Jennifer Olmsted, Professor, Drew University, USA

Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta, Professor of history, Federal University of Minas Gerais, Brazil

Adele Perry, Professor of History & Senior Fellow, St John’s College, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada

Jelena Pesic, Associate Professor, University of Belgrade, Serbia

Trudy Huskamp Peterson, Certified Archivist, USA

Paolo Pezzino, President Istituto Nazionale Ferruccio Parri Milano

Megan Price, Chair of the American Statistical Association’s Committee on Scientific Freedom and Human Rights, USA

Brian Rappert, University of Exeter, UK

Muneerah Razak, Research Associate, National University of Singapore

Stuart Rees OAM, Professor Emeritus, University of Sydney, Australia

Bob Reinalda, Researcher, Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands

Ann Rigney, Professor and Chair of Comparative Literature, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Peter Romijn, Senior Researcher and Head of Research, NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust, and Genocide Studies, Professor of History, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

John Roosa, Associate Professor of History, University of British Columbia, Canada

Rachel L. Roper, Professor of Microbiology & Immunology, Brody School of Medicine, East Carolina University, USA

Sara Roy, Senior Research Scholar, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University, USA

Farian Sabahi, lecturer, Università della Valle d'Aosta, Italy

José-Tomás Velasco Sánchez, Professor, Universidad de Salamanca, Spain

Saskia Sassen, Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology, Columbia University, USA & Centennial visiting Professor, the London School of Economics, UK

Cara Schlesinger, Managing Editor /Project Manager, Social Research: An International Quarterly, The New School for Social Research, USA

Nina Schneider, Senior Research Fellow, Käte Hamburger Kolleg, Centre for Global Cooperation Research, Universität Duisburg-Essen, Germany

Brigitte H. Schulz, Professor emerita, Trinity College, USA

Rachel Scott, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies, Virginia Tech, USA

Fatima Seedat, Senior Lecturer, African Gender Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Kate Seelye, Vice President, Middle East Institute, USA

Delfina Serrano, PhD Tenured Researcher, CSIC, Madrid, Spain

Samer S. Shehata, Associate Professor of Middle East Studies, Department of International and Area Studies, University of Oklahoma, USA

Susan Shepler, Associate Professor.  School of International Service, American University, USA

Marika Sherwood, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London, UK

Manfred Sing, Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies, Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz, Germany

Anjana Singh, Professor of History, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Volodymyr Sklokin, Professor of History, Ukrainian Catholic University, Lviv, Ukraine

Dawn Skorczewski, Professor of English, Brandeis University, USA

Dean Smart, Senior Lecturer in History and Citizenship Education, Education Department, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK

D. Max Snodderly, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Texas at Austin, USA

Zakia Soman, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA), India

Amira Sonbol, Professor of History, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Alison Stankrauff, University Archivist, Wayne State University, USA

Peter Stansky, Professor of History Emeritus, Stanford University, USA

Andrea L. Stanton, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, University of Denver, USA

Eric Stover, Faculty Director, Human Rights Center, University of California, Berkeley School of Law, USA

Siep Stuurman, Professor of the History of Ideas, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Mairaj Syed, Associate Professor, University of California, Davis, USA

Vera A. Tabakova, Professor of Economics, East Carolina University, USA

Nayereh Tohidi, Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Director of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, California State University, Northridge, USA

John Torpey, Presidential Professor of Sociology and History & Director, Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, The Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), USA

Carla Tsampiras, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Judith Tucker, Professor, Georgetown University & President, Middle East Studies Association, USA

Sufia Uddin, Associate Professor and Chair, Religious Studies, Connecticut College, USA

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Fellow, Baker Institute of Public Policy, Rice University, USA

Wiene F. van Hattum, (retired) assistant professor of criminal law, University of Groningen & Chair, Forum Levenslang, The Netherlands

Karel Van Nieuwenhuyse, Professor in the History Unit of KU Leuven, Belgium

Guy Vanthemsche, Emeritus professor of History, Free University of Brussels, Belgium

Lex Heerma van Voss, Director, Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Netherlands

Michel Vermote, Coordinator of Archiefbank Vlaanderen, Belgium

Polymeris Voglis, University of Thessaly, Greece

Katharina von Kellenbach, Convener of Research Group, ZIF Bielefeld, Germany

Dirk Voorhoof, Professor, Human Rights Centre, Faculty of Law and Criminology, Ghent University, Belgium

Amina Wadud, Professor Emeritus of Islamic Studies, Virginia Commonwealth University & Visiting Scholar: Starr King School for the Ministry, USA

John Waterbury, Emeritus Professor, Princeton University, USA

David H. Warren, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, The Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Lynn Welchman, Professor of Law in the Middle East and North Africa, SOAS, University of London, UK

Isabelle Werenfels, Senior Fellow, Middle East and Africa Division, Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), Berlin, Germany

Antia Wiersma, Director, Royal Netherlands Historical Society, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Annabelle Wilmott, Program Associate, Scholars at Risk, USA

Tamara Cofman Wittes, Senior Fellow, The Brookings Institution, USA

Gerben Zaagsma, Assistant Professor, Luxembourg Centre for Contemporary and Digital History, University of Luxembourg

Jasmin Zine, Professor of Muslim Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada


*Signatories have signed in their personal capacities; institutional affiliations are provided for the purpose of identification.


His Royal Highness Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud
Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United States
The Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
601 New Hampshire Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20037
fax: (202)944-5983; (202) 944-3113

His Excellency Abdallah Al-Mouallimi
Ambassador of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations,
Permanent Mission of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations
809 UN Plaza, 10th fl. 
New York, NY 10017
Fax: (212) 983-4895

His Excellency Mr. Abdulaziz Alwasil
Ambassador of Saudi Arabia
Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Office in Geneva
Route de Lausanne 263
1292 Chambésy
Fax: +41 22 758 00 00 

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