International Affairs

Wife, ‘American mother’ fear for BGSU graduate being held by Saudi government

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News Ayman al-Drees wasn’t outspoken.  Even as he advocated for women’s rights he tried to keep a low profile, his wife and fellow activist Malak “Angel” al-Shehri said. She was the high profile feminist who was pushing hard against Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system. “I’m the activist. I’m the women’s rights activist. I’m the feminist,” she said Monday (April 7). They met at the time she was arrested for tweeting a photo of herself without a head scarf in violation of the kingdom’s strict interpretation of Islam. That photo brought forth a surge of violent threats with some arguing she should be beheaded. Now it’s become clear that for al-Drees maintaining a low profile wasn’t enough. The 2016 Bowling Green State University graduate is among a number of activists rounded up by Saudi officials in a crackdown on advocates for greater women’s rights in the kingdom. The New York Times published a story on the arrests April 5. Al-Shehri said she last heard from her husband late last week. They were on the telephone when he said people were coming to arrest him. He said he loved her, urged her to be careful, and to take care of herself. That’s the last she’s heard from him. Al-Shehri has no way, she said, to get any information about him, even what charges he faces. Ayman Al-Drees Al-Drees worked as an insurance underwriter, but his passion was as a translator of documents related to human rights. He did this to enlighten people about the fight for women’s rights with Saudi Arabia. His wife wants people to know that side of him. Trolls on social media, she said, are trying to paint him and the others arrested as traitors. Al-Shehri now lives in California. Last May she fled her country when some of her friends in the movement were arrested. In February she had visited the Hubbell-Staeble family in Bowling Green with al-Drees.  Al-Drees came to know the Bowling Green family when he took a General Studies Writing course taught by Hubbell-Staeble. He was one of a trio of male international students who bonded in the class. Later he became close friends with Hubbell-Staeble’s sons, Nathan and Aidan. He often visited the house, Dawn…

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