Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) and more than a dozen other women senators today called on Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan, the first Saudi woman to serve as ambassador to the United States, to improve women’s rights and end the cruel treatment of women activists in Saudi Arabia.
“As women in the United States Senate, we believe we must raise the issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia,” the senators wrote. “In order to improve our relationship, the kingdom should abolish the male guardianship system and end its crackdown on women’s rights activists. As you take up your charge, we look forward to working with you on this vitally important issue.”
In addition to Senators Feinstein and Collins, the letter was signed by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).
Full text of the letter follows:
April 19, 2019
Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to the United States of America
Dear Ambassador bint Bandar:
As you begin your tenure in Washington, we write to express our deep concern over Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women. As your nation’s first female Ambassador to the United States, we urge you to play a leading role in improving the livelihoods of women throughout the Kingdom.
We applaud Saudi Arabia’s decision to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women. However, we believe the Saudi government must do more, including enacting legislation that prohibits discrimination against women.
In addition, we urge the Kingdom to take steps toward dismantling the male guardianship system. The United Nations has said the “mahram” system is “the key obstacle to women’s participation in the society and economy,” and we urge the Saudi government to take concrete legal steps to abolish it.
Finally, we urge the government to end its mistreatment of women’s rights activists. The arbitrary detention, sexual abuse, and use of torture by the Saudi government against women is appalling and unacceptable. We urge the Kingdom to immediately release all women’s rights advocates in detention, allow for an independent investigation of their treatment, and hold anyone responsible for their mistreatment accountable.
As women in the United States Senate, we believe we must raise the issue of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. In order to improve our relationship, the Kingdom should abolish the male guardianship system and end its crackdown on women’s rights activists. As you take up your charge, we look forward to working with you on this vitally important issue.