Kuwaiti authorities provided no legal justifications for al-Rasheed’s arrest or deportation, and his family has been unable to contact him since. His Saudi passport expired in 2015.
Al-Rasheed is the son of the late Prince Talal Bin Abdulaziz al-Rasheed of Saudi Arabia. The al-Rasheed family ruled the Emirate of Ha’il in the northern part of present-day Saudi Arabia until the turn of the 20th century and have a historic rivalry with the current ruling family – al Saud. But as friends of al-Rasheed and members of his family told Human Rights Watch, al-Rasheed was not an activist nor politically engaged.
“There is no reason for them to arrest him,” said one family member, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “He is a poet, an academic, he is ambitious and is not political at all.” The family member said that al-Rasheed was set to graduate from Qatar University by mid-June.
Al-Rasheed’s arrest comes at a time of increased repression in Saudi Arabia. Since the beginning of 2017, Saudi Arabia has increased arrests, prosecutions, and convictions of peaceful dissidents and human rights advocates. In its most recent crackdown, around the same time as al-Rasheed’s disappearance, the Saudi government arrested 17 women’s rights activists and supporters, including some of the most prominent campaigners for the right to drive.
Authorities have since released eight of those arrested. But others remain in detention, including Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, and Ibrahim al-Modaimeegh. According to Saudi activists, the detainees have had no access to lawyers and limited communication with family members since May 15.
“The disgraceful pretense of calling Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman a ‘reformer’ grows more shameful every day that his government continues to arrest, detain, or disappear anyone it may perceive a threat to his rule,” Whitson said.