Saudi woman activist freed after 1001 days, exploited in jail, received rape threats

New Delhi : Loujain al-Hathloul, one of Saudi Arabia’s most famous political activists, has been released from prison. Loujain was in jail for the last three years. She has been vocal against the women’s driving ban in Saudi Arabia. In 2018, she was sentenced by a special court in Saudi Arabia to five years and eight months imprisonment under the Unclear Anti Terrorism Act. Now she has been released after 1001 days.

However, Loujain is not completely free and a travel ban of 5 years has been imposed on her. Loujain’s sister Lina, who has been struggling with her for the past several years, tweeted that Loujain has come home but she is still not completely free. The fight is not over yet. I would not be happy until the freedom of all political prisoners.

It is believed that international pressure is also a big reason behind the release of Loujain. Jake Sullivan, the security adviser to the newly elected US President Joe Biden, described the sentence given to Loujain as ‘against justice’ and spoke of standing with human rights. Apart from this, the Mayor of Paris, the Belgian Foreign Ministry and a German MP have also demanded the release of Loujain and expressed displeasure over the attitude of Saudi Arabia. US President Joe Biden has also expressed happiness over the release of Loujain.

In Saudi Arabia, under the male-dominated system ‘Wilaya’, it is mandatory for every woman from birth to death to have some man as guardian. Also, women could not drive. Loujain had tried to challenge this system and it was possible through the efforts of her and many women that last year women had the facility to travel abroad without the permission of the male guardian.

Apart from this, the driving ban on women was removed in the year 2018 itself. But along with several women who protested in this case, Loujain was also arrested. Loujain was accused that she is a threat to national security and she is trying to thwart the country’s political system.

After this, in view of the conditions of the prison, Loujain also went on hunger strike with some women activists. Loujain had said that during the investigation, people tried to sexually abuse and torture. These women said that they were given electric shock, received rape and death threats. Human rights lawyer Helena Kennedy also said in her report that many women, including Loujain, were shown pornography in prison and tortured.

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