BGSU asks for action after Saudi arrest of graduate


The Bowling Green State University administration has reached out to a congressional delegation on behalf
of a Saudi BGSU graduate who was reportedly arrested earlier this month as part of a mass incarceration
in his home country.
The English department sent a memorandum Monday on behalf of Ayman al-Drees. It was supported by 51 BGSU
English department faculty, staff and students, and requested a statement of support from President
Rodney Rogers.
“Members of our community have expressed their concern to BGSU regarding the safety of former student
Ayman al-Drees. The University has reached out directly to our congressional delegation and shared those
thoughts and concerns with them,” said university spokesperson Sarah Bednarski, BGSU director of
Al-Drees was arrested earlier this month by the Saudi government without charges, habeas corpus, a lawyer
or a phone call. It is estimated that at least 10 other individuals were also detained that week for
association with feminist activism.
Al-Drees, a 2016 BGSU alumnus, earned a bachelor of science degree in marketing.
“He’s living the values of our university,” said Lee Nickoson, chair of the Department of English, in an
“We feel a commitment to the student beyond graduation, and care for the student beyond graduation. So to
hear about someone who is impacting the world around him in positive ways and advocating for social
change for putting himself at risk — that’s everything that we imagine or hope for our students, that
they can engage the world around them, and when they see injustices or inequities give voice to efforts
to bring about positive change. That’s what we see at work here, in a very high stakes, I can’t think of
a higher stakes, manner.”
Considered a low-profile activist, he is also the husband of Malak al-Shehri and may have been detained
for their relationship. She was arrested in 2016 after making a Twitter post of herself in public not
wearing a head covering, in protest against the government dress code.
After her release, she fled to the United States.
The BGSU English Department’s statement said al-Drees was an amazing student and representative of the
“Faculty know Ayman as an exceptionally dedicated, diligent, cooperative, humorous, and compassionate
person. He served as a model of BGSU core values in action as a Falcon, and took those same BGSU values
with him when he graduated,” the statement said.
The English department memorandum said that al-Drees was a “translator of messages about human rights and
the dignity of women in his home country of Saudi Arabia.”
It also recognizes that “speaking up for human rights, was of course not without risk.”
Last week, a spokesperson for U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the office is investigating.
“Our office is still learning more about these reports, but Senator Brown has always been a strong
supporter of human rights and he has previously called on President Trump to hold Saudi Arabia
accountable for its abuses,” Jennifer Donohue stated.
A spokesman from the office of U.S. Rep. Bob Latta, R-Bowling Green, said that the office has reached out
to the U.S. Department of State and is gathering information on the situation.
Ohio Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Bowling Green, is also keeping an eye on the developments.
“While I have never met the young man personally, I have seen the outpouring of support for him from
people across Bowling Green. His family will continue to be in my thoughts and I am hopeful to hear
positive news soon.”
The BGSU English Department memorandum also made reference to an April 10 statement made by U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and reported by France 24, a television station.
“We’ve urged them to make a better decision, saying that those folks need to be released,” Pompeo said.
“It’s inconsistent with the relationship between our two countries. We don’t think it’s in the Saudis’
best interest to do this either.”
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