Saudi Arabia has detained an American woman who has been locked in a years-long struggle to get her young daughter out of the kingdom despite the objections of her Saudi ex-husband, according to US officials and a US-based advocacy group on Tuesday. . .
Carly Morris was summoned to a police station in the north-central city of Buraidah on Monday and has yet to be released by Saudi authorities, according to the Washington-based Freedom Initiative. The group advocates for people it believes have been wrongfully detained in the Middle East.
US officials said Saudi authorities had confirmed the detention of Morris, whose efforts to leave the kingdom with his daughter, now 8, have been hampered by Saudi Arabia’s strict male guardianship laws. Morris in recent months had spoken to reporters and tweeted about his circumstances.
“Our embassy in Riyadh is very involved in this case and they are monitoring the situation very closely,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in Washington on Tuesday.
The Saudi Embassy in Washington and the Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Saudi Arabia, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has increasingly included US citizens and Western-based Saudis in a sweeping crackdown on those the government sees as rivals or critics.
In August, a Saudi court sentenced a 72-year-old Saudi-American, Saad al-Madi, to 16 years in prison for years of critical tweets he had posted from his home in Florida.
Morris had traveled to Saudi Arabia in 2019 for what was intended to be a short stay to allow her daughter, also a US citizen, to meet the Saudi father’s family, said Bethany Al-Haidari, Saudi Arabia case manager for the Freedom Initiative.
Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship code served to keep the daughter in the kingdom. Saudi Arabia allegedly placed Morris herself under one of her widely imposed travel bans, barring her from leaving the country.
Morris recently tweeted warnings to other women with children abroad about Saudi Arabia, al-Haidari said.
President Joe Biden had vowed as a candidate to isolate Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s de facto ruler, for rights abuses. The Biden administration now hopes to persuade the kingdom to pump more oil for the global market and has worked to bridge the gap between the two strategic partners.
The arrest of the American woman was “yet another sign” that Saudi Arabia simply does not value the United States as an ally, said Allison McManus, director of research at the Freedom Initiative.