Saudi Arabian feminist who was jailed for not wearing a headscarf in public says her husband has been arrested and she fears it's because of her beliefs

  • Malak al-Shehri was jailed three years ago after she posted a picture to Twitter, which showed her out in public in Saudi Arabia without a headscarf on.
  • Now the 35-year-old feminist believes the Saudi government may be punishing her further by arresting her husband, Ayman al-Drees, 31.
  • Human rights activists told NBC that al-Drees is among at least 14 people who are not considered front-line activists that were arrested the week of April 4.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

A Saudi Arabian feminist who was jailed three years ago for posting a photo to Twitter, showing her out in public without a headscarf, says her husband has been arrested as well.

Malak al-Shehri, 35, told NBC News on Wednesday that her husband, 31-year-old Ayman al-Drees, was arrested on April 4, just hours after he called her worried about an unmarked car that he says followed him on the drive to his family’s date farm in eastern Saudi Arabia.

Al-Shehri fled Saudi Arabia last year, after the government rounded up a handful of activist women. She implored her husband to follow her to New York, where she’s now working as a waitress, but he hadn’t left yet.

She says on her last call with him, he assured everything would be alright but expressed regret over his decision to stay behind.

“He always lived safe,” al-Shehri said. “I am the reckless one.”

Human rights activists told the network that al-Drees was among at least 14 people not considered front-line activists who were arrested in Saudi Arabia the week of April 4. NBC News says that those detained are considered supportive of women’s rights or have ties to jailed activists. The government has not commented on any of the cases, and wouldn’t give information on the whereabouts of al-Drees or the status of his case, the outlet says.


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Al-Shehri says it was her risky decision to post a picture of herself without a headscarf, while standing in a Riyadh street years ago, that first drew her husband to her.

She says he reached out to her online, they struck up a relationship and he vowed to marry her. The couple tied the knot in April 2017.

But now al-Shehri worries that her beliefs will only get her husband in more trouble.

“Every tweet I write, I am scared it will affect him,” she said.

Continue to read NBC News’ full report»

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