Saudi Arabia reportedly detains activist who defied driving ban

Activist Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul has been arrested again. The Amnesty release said that no reason was given for her arrest and she was not allowed to contact her lawyer and family but added that it might be due to her rights activism.

Loujain al-Hathloul, 27, is one of few women voices in a conservative country with one of the most regressive societies for women where they are cursed to live a life of second class citizens.

They are not allowed to travel alone. They are not allowed to drive and they were now allowed to vote and stand in elections until the local polls of December 2015.

They survive under the strict glare of male guardianship and before last month, they were not allowed even to go to a doctor or have their studies without the approval of their male guardians. An order by Saudi Arabian king Salman last month gave them limited freedom to access education and healthcare on their own.

There has been a growing voice against these atrocities but treatment meted out to Loujain says nothing much has changed. Amnesty International’s Campaign Director in the Middle-East Samah Hadid said Loujain was arrested on June 4 at King Fahad International Airport in Dammam in Saudi Arabia and she is due for interrogation in Riyadh by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution.

Before it, Loujain was arrested on November 30, 2014 for violating Saudi Arabia’s driving ban imposed on women and was in jail in 73 days. To further choke women voices and probably to make her case an example to deter others, her case was transferred to a terrorism court. Loujain has a wide following on Twitter and the Saudi government found her social media posts dangerous enough to crack down.

According to a Washington Post report, she holds a driving license that allows her to drive in every other country of the Arabian Peninsula and when she was arrested in November 2014, she was trying to enter Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. Since then, she has not tried driving.

Loujain also stood in 2015 civic polls but Saudi authorities didn’t allow her name on the ballot papers. The pain of being treated like second class citizens with borrowed lives echoes in Loujain’s words.

Last month, US President Donald Trump was in Saudi Arabia along with his daughter Ivanka Trump who found Saudi Arabia’s progress on women’s rights encouraging but Loujain questions such events involving a close circle of influential Saudi women who trace their success thanks to their male guardians. She questions the system where the success achieved by a handful of Saudi women is not theirs but due to the opportunities provided by men.


Staff Reporter

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