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New investigation reveals shocking extent of torture in Saudi women's prisons

Numerous female activists are detained in Saudi Arabia's Dhabhan Prison [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 May, 2020

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A documentary by Al Jazeera revealed shocking testimonies from female former detainees about the extent of torture and sexual harassment in Jeddah's Dhahban Central Prison.
A new documentary broadcast on Al Jazeera's Arabic channel has uncovered terrifying details about the torture of female prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

The film presents a selection of testimonies from former detainees of Jeddah's Dhahban Central Prison, revealing rampant physical and psychological torture as well as sexual harassment during interrogation sessions.

Dhahban Prison is where a number of prominent Saudi women's rights activists have been arbitrarily detained since a sweeping campaign of arrests in May 2018.

The activists have previously complained about sexual harassment, torture and other forms of mistreatment during interrogation, however, the documentary is the first of its kind in airing direct testimonies.

One of the interviewees is South African former university teacher Yomna Desai, who was released from Dhabhan a year ago.

Desai recounts being taken off the street by a security forces after leaving work at Hail University, and flown to Dhahban Prison in Jeddah.

Desai said that inmates are taken to be tortured at a palace or villa located near the prison that may belong to a member of the ruling family.

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Alia Al-Hathloul, the sister of prominent rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who has been arbitrarily detained since 2018, says on the programme that her sister has been tortured not in an attempt to extract a confession, but purely for her abusers' pleasure.

UK-based Saudi activist Sahar Al-Faifi says on the documentary that detainees have been stripped naked and photographed, the photo then being placed on the investigation table as humiliation.

Beatings with electric cables are also used against the women.

During interrogation, inmates have been harassed and threatened with rape, while in chains, to force them to answer questions, Al-Faifi added.

The documentary also highlights the 2016 death of Dhahban inmate Hanan al-Thubiani, which Desai said was due to torture.



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