American woman detained by Saudi officials after saying she had been trapped there since 2019

A 34-year-old American woman has been arrested in Saudi Arabia after posting on Twitter that she and her young daughter were lured to the kingdom and have been trapped there since 2019.

Carly Morris told relatives three years ago that she planned to visit Saudi Arabia for a brief period so that her eight-year-old daughter could meet her paternal grandfather. However, Morris then found herself locked in a years-long struggle to get her young daughter back out of the kingdom despite the objections of her Saudi ex-husband. Morris’ efforts to leave have been made more difficult by Saudi Arabia’s strict male guardianship laws.

US officials confirmed to The Associated Press on Tuesday the detention of Morris, a California native. Spokesman Ned Price said: “Our Embassy in Riyadh is very engaged in this matter and is monitoring the situation very closely.”

Morris was arrested after being summoned to the prosecutor’s office on Sunday over an allegation that she would “destabilize public order”, according to an official document seen by the Guardian. The document states that Morris is American and lists her occupation as “housewife.”

Related: Saudi Arabia sentences US citizen to 16 years in prison for tweets criticizing the regime

The summons followed Morris posting a lengthy statement on Twitter, in which she warned other women and children against visiting the kingdom. In the statement, she said she and her daughter had been held “against our will” at a hotel in “extreme and dire circumstances”, where they had faced “prolonged social isolation” since 2019.

The whereabouts of Morris’ daughter, who is also a US citizen, are unknown.

The Saudi Arabian embassy in Washington and the Department of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to an Associated Press email seeking comment.

The case marks the latest case of a Saudi government dissident or critic detained or convicted for using social media. Rights activists from the Freedom Initiative, which has been following Morris’ story, said she was the third American detained in Saudi Arabia.

“Morris’ detention means we now know that three Americans are behind bars in Saudi Arabia, another sign that Saudi Arabia simply does not see the United States as an ally,” said Allison McManus, director of Freedom Initiative research. “Before we hear more reference to the Saudi strategic partnership, we need to see an end to abuses against American citizens. We must see an end to the abuse of women and children whose only crime is their sex.

In another case, a 34-year-old mother named Salma al-Shehab, who was completing her doctorate at the University of Leeds but returned to her native Saudi Arabia for a short vacation, was found guilty and sentenced to decades in prison for following and liking tweets. by some Saudi dissidents while living in the UK.

In his statement on Twitter, Morris said: “We have spent the last three years in these conditions and deprived of our basic human rights and our lives have been stolen from us. For more than three years, I tried to ask for help from every government office and authority. My situation has been downplayed, neglected and mishandled.

In her warning to others, she said: “You will be stripped of your dignity, your honor and your rights. You will be placed in dehumanizing circumstances. And anyone, at any time, can do anything to you, and you won’t get the desperate help you need, and there won’t be any justice. In fact, you will be blamed and criminalized in return.

Morris’ case began to attract attention in August, when his situation became known to some human rights defenders who spoke to the media.

In an interview with the Guardian, Morris’ mother, Denise White, said Morris decided to take a short vacation to Saudi Arabia so her daughter could spend time with her father’s family. Morris is divorced from her daughter’s father, who is Saudi. The former couple met while living in the United States, White said.

White said she expressed concerns to her daughter at the time about her travel plans. “She kept saying ‘we’ll be back before you know it,'” White said.

Morris later told her mother that her and her daughter’s passports were taken by her ex-husband after she arrived. More recently, Morris told his mother that she had been banned from traveling and was “afraid something was going to happen”.

“She told me she felt like she was trapped there,” White said. “She met with the US Embassy and Saudi officials, there was some sort of meeting, and during that meeting she said that she felt there was no solution. “

White said she last spoke to her daughter a few days ago, but then received a notification from a human rights defender that Morris was being held.

White said Morris recently called Morris’ husband on his cell phone to tell him she had been arrested but did not know what the charges were. She was calling from jail, she said.

Another American, Saad Ibrahim Almadi, 72, who was returning to his native Arabia for a vacation, was arrested in November 2021 and recently sentenced to 16 years in prison for tweeting critically of the regime.

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