Beirut – Campaigners have called on Britain to investigate the death of a young Emirati woman who headed a London-based activist group that probes human rights abuses by Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia.
Alaa al-Siddiq, the 33-year-old daughter of an Emirati political prisoner and the executive director of the prominent group ALQST, died in a car crash near London on Saturday following a dinner to celebrate her birthday, campaigners said.
“We need UK authorities to reassure us that no foul play was involved, given the Emirati and Saudi government’s record of surveilling, targeting and harassing activists and their families abroad,” Sarah Leah Whitson said in a statement on Sunday.
Whitson is a board member of ALQST and the executive director of DAWN, a US-based campaign group founded by Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist murdered in 2018 inside Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul.
There was no immediate response from British police.
ALQST said it had “found no suggestion of foul play” after looking into the fatal crash.
“The police have taken a similar view and will be publishing the outcome of their investigations once they are complete,” ALQST said on Twitter.
Khalid Ibrahim, director of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, also called for a thorough police investigation, saying “Alaa was at risk all the time”.
“We work in a very hostile environment and such governments as those in the Gulf, are using surveillance technology to hack into our accounts,” Ibrahim told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper.
“We all know what happened to Jamal Khashoggi.”
Exiled in Britain for over a decade, Alaa is the daughter of Emirati activist Mohammed al-Siddiq, who DAWN said has been detained in the UAE since 2012.
DAWN urged Emirati authorities to release her father and allow the repatriation of her body to the UAE for an Islamic burial in her hometown.
“Like so many hundreds of thousands Arab democracy exiles, Alaa al-Siddiq’s exile in the UK was a direct consequence of her government’s repression,” Whitson said.
The UAE government so far has not commented on her death.
ALQST has catalogued what it calls widespread state abuses in Saudi Arabia, among other countries, including arrests of women activists, academics and royal family members.
ALQST was founded in 2014 by Yahya Assiri, a former Royal Saudi Air Force officer turned dissident.
In September last year, Assiri was among a group of Saudi dissidents who founded the National Assembly Party, the first organised political resistance under King Salman’s rule. — AFP