Al Saud is ruthless

June 7, 2020
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The family of jailed prominent Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul says authorities have not allowed her to contact them for the past three weeks, and also banned her from visits for more than two months.

“@LinaAlhathloul confirms that her sister @LoujainHathloul did not call the family for the third week in a row, and that visits are denied since March. She adds: “the first period she was held incommunicado was when she was being tortured,” the Prisoners of Conscience, an independent nongovernmental organization advocating human rights in Saudi Arabia, announced in a post on its official Twitter page.

“We demand the Saudi authorities immediately disclose Loujain Al-Hathloul’s situation and health condition by allowing her to communicate with her family, and to release her immediately without delay or preconditions,” it added.

More than a dozen activists were arrested in May 2018, and held on suspicion of harming the country’s interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad.

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At the time, international rights groups reported the detention of prominent female activists among the detainees, who had previously campaigned for the right to drive and an end to the kingdom’s male guardianship system.

Some were later released, but activists have said several of the women were held in solitary confinement for months and faced torture and sexual harassment.

Among the jailed female rights activists are Aziza al-Yousef, a retired professor at Riyadh’s King Saud University, and Loujain al-Hathloul, who was arrested and held for more than 70 days in custody back in 2014 after she attempted to drive from the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Saudi Arabia.

Loujain was one of the activists who faced sexual harassment and torture during interrogation, according to her family and rights groups.

Saudi Arabia overturned the world’s only ban on female motorists on June 24, 2018. The lifting of the prohibition followed a sweeping crackdown on prominent women’s rights activists, who had staunchly advocated for the right to drive.

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Ever since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader in 2017, the ultra-conservative kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.

Over the past years, Riyadh has also redefined its anti-terrorism laws to target activism.