Saudi religious scholar Sulaiman Al Dowaish forcibly disappeared since April 2016

Saudi religious scholar Sulaiman Al Dowaish forcibly disappeared since April 2016

On April 22, 2016, Sulaiman Al Dowaish was abducted while on a work trip to Mecca. He was then brought to the Royal Palace in Riyadh, where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, began physically assaulting him and admonishing him for a series of tweets he had posted. Al Dowaish was last seen at an unofficial prison located in the Al Khuzama Palace in Riyadh. His fate and whereabouts remain unknown to date.

In the evening hours of April 21, 2016, Sulaiman Al Dowaish published several tweets summarising a religious lecture he delivered that day during a trip to Mecca. In his tweets, Al Dowaish warned about the dangers of individuals providing their sons with great privileges and responsibilities, without proper oversight and accountability.

The next day at 9 a.m., Al Dowaish left the place where he was staying, in the Al Rawabi neighbourhood in Mecca, and called his friend. While on the phone with his friend, Al Dowaish ended the phone call abruptly. He has not been heard from since.

According to an eyewitness, on the day of his disappearance, Al Dowaish was brought, handcuffed, to the office of Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, at the Royal Palace in Riyadh. Bin Salman then forced Al Dowaish onto his knees and proceeded to punch him in the face and waist area, after which Al Dowaish began bleeding from his mouth and lost consciousness. According to the witness, Mohammed bin Salman began reprimanding Al Dowaish about his recent tweets while he assaulted him.

A few weeks after he was disappeared, Al Dowaish’s family looked up his name on the website of the Saudi General Investigative Directorate (Al Mabahith) and found his name listed. He was categorised as a “security suspect,” with the phrase “under investigation” listed under his name. The website additionally provided the date of arrest, which was April 22, 2016.

Al Dowaish’s family then took a photo of the aforementioned webpage and submitted it to the Ministry of Interior. The family first visited the Ministry on May 3, 2016 and began appealing to the Ministry on a weekly basis. The screenshot was presented to the Head of State Security at the Ministry of Interior, Abdulaziz Al Huwairini, who denied the veracity of the photos and asked the family to check the website again. After doing so, Al Dowaish’s family discovered that his name was deleted from the website.

In 2018, former co-detainees informed Al Dowaish’s family that they had been held with Al Dowaish in an unofficial detention facility, belonging to the Saudi Royal Court and located in the basement of a Saudi Royal Palace in Riyadh, known as Al Khuzama Palace. According to witnesses, their imprisonment was overseen by Maher Al Mutreb and they were interrogated and tortured by Saud Al Qahtani, both close advisors of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Despite reaching out to various institutions and individuals, including the Mecca Police, the General Investigative Directorate, the Deputy Minister of Interior, the Agency for State Security Affairs and the Royal Court, Al Dowaish’s family has not been provided with any information regarding his fate or whereabouts.

After enquiring at the Office for Security Coordination, within the Ministry of Interior, one of the office’s employees informed the family that Al Dowaish’s name was in their files and that he was accused of three charges, namely “interfering with the public order”, “offending the office of the crown prince”, and “inciting public opinion against the State”. Al Dowaish’s family asked the Office for Security Coordination to bring Al Dowaish before a judge so that he may be officially informed of the charges pressed against him. However, the Office for Security Coordination then denied having any file on Al Dowaish and informed the family that he was still disappeared and that the employee who provided them with information regarding his arrest was mistaken and will be subjected to disciplinary sanctions.

In 2018, Sulaiman Al Dowaish called his family, from a US-based phone number, for less than a minute. During the call, he told his family he was in Turkey. After four months, he called his family again from the same phone number and informed them that he was in Syria, and that he had “joined the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)” and that he will be “conducting a military operation soon”. The family was shocked by the phone call and appealed to prince Ahmad bin Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia’s former Minister of Interior. Ahmad bin Abdulaziz then informed the family that Al Dowaish was not in fact in Syria but was conducting these phone calls from Riyadh (which the family believe was done under duress). The family then reached out to prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Nayef who promised to intervene and locate Al Dowaish, but to no avail.

On April 6, 2021, MENA Rights Group and ALQST for Human Rights appealed to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to call on the Saudi authorities to clarify the fate and whereabouts of Sulaiman Al Dowaish.

On 14 August 2021, Abdulwahhab Al Dowaish, Sulaiman Al Dowaish’s son, was arrested after receiving a call from Saudi officials asking him to head to the Naif College for National Security in Riyadh. 

Abdulwahhab was initially arrested in 2017, after arguing with an official at the Ministry of Interior regarding the arrest and disappearance of his father. Just one day after this argument, a number of cars arrived at al-Dowaish’s house and arrested him before taking him to an unknown location. He was disappeared for three months and then convicted under the 2017 Anti-Terrorism Law, before being released on probation in 2018. Before his release however, he was threatened by the investigators responsible for his case, who informed him that if he were to further campaign or inquire about his father, he would be rearrested and would not be released again. Though he was released in 2018, on probation, he was sentenced in September 2020 to three years and a half in prison, 18 months of which were suspended, in addition to a travel ban.

Once Abdulwahhab arrived to the Naif College for National Security, in August 2021, he was informed that he was required to spend the remainder of his suspended sentence in prison. His fate and whereabouts remained unknown until early January 2022. Though he has been allowed phone calls with his family since, his location remains unknown.

In October 2021, Sulaiman al-Dowaish’s other son, Abdulrahman, contacted Badr al-Asaker, the head of The Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Foundation (MISK) and a top aide to the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, to inquire further about the fate and whereabouts of his disappeared father. According to information received by ALQST, al-Asaker then requested the arrest of Abdulrahman. Shortly afterwards, he was arrested and forcibly disappeared. During his disappearance, Abdulrahman was coerced into confessing that he attempted to damage community safety, amongst other acts which are considered crimes under the Kingdom’s Anti-Cybercrime law. 

In November 2021, Abdulrahman was tried in a secret trial without the presence of his lawyer and his family. He was then placed in solitary confinement which caused him to become so ill that he was required to be placed in intensive care.  

In December 2021, Abdulrahman was sentenced to two years in prison in reprisal for enquiring about the fate of his father. 

On February 24 2022, MENA Rights Group and ALQST for Human Rights appealed to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to call on the Saudi authorities to clarify the fate and location of Abdulwahabal-Dowaish.


February 24, 2022: MENA Rights Group and ALQST for Human Rights appeal to the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances to call on the Saudi authorities to clarify the fate and location of Abdulwahhab al-Dowaish, the son of Sulaiman al-Dowaish.
October 2021: Sulaiman al-Dowaish’s son, Abdulrahman, is arbitrarily detained after enquiring about his father’s disappearance.
August 14, 2021: Sulaiman al-Dowaish’s other son, Abdulwahhab, is arrested and forcibly disappeared after questioning the whereabouts of his father.
April 6, 2021: MENA Rights Group and ALQST for Human Rights request the intervention of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.
2018: Former co-detainees inform Al Dowaish’s family that they had been held with Al Dowaish in a secret detention facility, belonging to the Saudi Royal Court, in Riyadh.
May 3, 2016: Al Dowaish’s family visits the Ministry of Interior to ask about his whereabouts, after seeing that he was listed as a “security suspect” on the Saudi General Investigative Directorate’s website.
April 22, 2016: Al Dowaish is disappeared while on a work trip to Mecca.