Saudi Arabian Activists Launch Feminist Radio Online

A feminist radio station campaigning for women's rights in Saudi Arabia has been broadcasting for the past two weeks in the hope of becoming "the voice of the silent majority."

"We started this project to archive this phase for history, so that people would know we were real, we did exist. The Saudi authorities could ban Twitter at any moment and we would lose the archive of our thoughts. Whereas the radio gives us the opportunity to record programs and broadcast them on other platforms," Ashtar, one of the presenters, told the BBC.

Bahraini woman Eman Mohammed takes a selfie with her phone as she celebrates with Saudi and Bahraini women after the lifting of the driving ban on women in Saudi Arabia on June 24. A feminist radio station campaigning for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia has been broadcasting for the past two weeks in the hope of becoming “the voice of the silent majority.”  Hamad I Mohammed/Reuters

Nsawya FM, or Feminist FM in English, has a team of 11 women working on the project, broadcasting programs through the live audio streaming website Mixlr, using only a laptop with editing software and a microphone. With the exception of two, all of the women are Saudi nationals, but not all of them live in Saudi Arabia.

Because some of women live in different time zones, communication can be a challenge. Many have work or school responsbilities and other demands on their time, which can add to the difficulty. Nine of the women produce content, while two others present it, according to the BBC.

The women set up a Twitter account for the station three weeks ago, asking for volunteer contributors to the project.

"Our goal is to be the voice of the silent majority, to give everyone the opportunity to share their views, ideas, criticism, articles and poems," said the station's first tweet announcing its formation.

Women in Saudi Arabia were given the right to drive in June, with more than 120,000 applying for driver's licenses on the day the ban was lifted, according to senior Ministry of Interior and Traffic Directorate officials.

Women in the Arabian Gulf country still face restrictions, including the right to freely marry, work or travel under the male guardianship system, and the Nsawya radio broadcast hopes to bring attention to those issues.

Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah, two prominent activists for women's rights in Saudi Arabia were arrested earlier this month, Human Rights Watch reported.

"The arrests of Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah signal that the Saudi authorities see any peaceful dissent, whether past or present, as a threat to their autocratic rule. After recent arbitrary arrests of businesspeople, women's rights activists and reformist clerics, Saudi Arabia's allies and partners should question what 'reform' really means in a country where the rule of law is disdainfully ignored," said the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, Sarah Leah Whitson.