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Saudi anti-guardianship activist freed

A Saudi woman activist campaigning against the restrictions of male guardianship has been freed after over 100 days in detention, reports say.

In what is being seen by campaigners as a significant step, Maryam al-Otaibi was also reportedly released without the presence of a male guardian.

She was detained after she fled her father’s house to try to lead an independent life.

Earlier this year, King Salman issued orders to modify guardianship rules.

The system has traditionally left Saudi women needing male permission for many everyday actions, such as applying for a passport, travelling abroad, getting married and also exiting a prison.

Ms al-Otaibi, an activist with a large following on social media, had taken part in a campaign against guardianship rules that saw people post on social media under the hashtag #IAmMyOwnGuardian, send letters to King Salman and sign a petition.

However male members of her family disapproved of this activity, according to the Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR).

Ms al-Otaibi moved to the capital Riyadh on her own but her father complained to police under the guardianship system and she was arrested in April, GCHR said.

Shortly before her arrest Ms al-Otaibi tweeted that she did not want to “go back to hell” and accused police in her home town of al-Ras of conspiring against her with her family.

During her 104 days in detention she was transferred to the women’s section of al-Malaz prison in Riyadh, GCHR said.

In April King Salman ordered government agencies to allow women to access government services without a male guardian’s consent.

The same month, Dina Ali Lasloom, a 24-year-old Saudi woman, was stopped in Manila airport while attempting to leave her family and seek asylum in Australia.

She was forcibly returned to Riyadh with relatives and has not been heard from since. The Saudi embassy in Manila said it was a “family matter”.

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