Souad al-Shammary was jailed for a series of Facebook posts. Al-Shammary, an activist from Saudi Arabia, was thrown in jail for a few months after she shared several photos of men with beards on social media.
The pictures showed an Orthodox Jew, a hipster, a communist, an Ottoman Caliph, a Sikh, and a Muslim all with impressive beards. Under the pictures, she shared a post, which explained that a beard does not make a man a Muslim nor holy. She went on to say that many of the men, who mocked and slammed Prophet Muhammad sported very long beards.
Al-Shammary, a mother of six, was jailed for three months. One of her daughters started a petition asking the government to release her mom. The petition obtained more than 70,000 signatures. It read in part:
“From the beginning, she has been a target of militants and conservative religious leaders for her beliefs. They have threatened to kill her and her children, my 4 brothers and sisters and me, which has always terrified her.”
It went on to say:
“My family and I don’t know what is going to happen to her, and we are scared that she is being abused inside the jail. The government has frozen all of her bank accounts, and my siblings and I are scared that we will be forced apart if she is not released. When I was growing up, my mother always told me that just when you think it is time to give up, a miracle will happen.”
She was eventually released, but she is not allowed to travel. While the twice-divorced lawyer is free, Raif Badawi, who helped al-Shammary create the online forum “Free Saudi Liberals Network,” is serving ten years behind bars after receiving 50 lashes.
Despite being blasted by locals for being evil, impure, a hypocrite, a disbeliever, and wicked, al-Shammary has been using her knowledge of the law to help other women. Via social media and interviews, she is taking on Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious establishment. According to her bio:
“Raised a devout girl in a large tribe where she tended sheep, Al-Shammary, the eldest of 12 children, graduated from the University of Ha’il with a degree in Islamic studies and became a public school teacher. At 17, she married a man twice her age and they had a girl, Yara. She was divorced at 20 and then re-married, this time to the chief judge in Ha’il who’d overseen her divorce proceedings. Al-Shammary’s journey to activism began on the day her daughter was taken from her. Almost as soon as Yara turned seven, her ex-husband gained custody. For eight years, she fought her parents, her community and anyone who stood between her and Yara.”
Asked why does she fight powerful men, who can harm her and push her family to disown her, she explained:
“I have rights that I don’t view as against my religion. I want to ask for these rights, and I want those who make decisions to hear me and act.”
The liberal mother’s unique story has received a lot of coverage around the globe.