At least 40 women and 12 children were detained on Saturday, February 9, 2013, following protests in the central Saudi Arabian cities of Riyadh and Qassim. A number of sources confirmed that security forces physically and verbally abused the women; one video showed a demonstrator whose clothing had been ripped from excess police force.

According to a statement released by the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), the women were protesting the arbitrary detainment and inhumane treatment of imprisoned family members.

ACPRA’s statement described the demonstrations as a last resort for detainees’ families, who have exhausted all formal government avenues to bring justice to their loved ones. The association has called for the immediate release of all men and women detained for participating in protests, underscoring that the right to demonstrate is guaranteed by international human rights agreements signed by the Saudi government.

In recent months, demonstrations against arbitrary detention and other human rights violations have been occurring almost weekly in Saudi Arabia. Just weeks ago in an episode almost identical to last Saturday’s protests, over a dozen women and children were detained in Qassim. The clear increase in demonstrations highlights the failure of the Saudi justice system and growing discontent among the country’s population.

The following is video of the women chanting for justice, on a bus after being detained:

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