Loujain al-Hathloul spent 1,001 nights in jail, or just under three years, and now she is out on probation which clearly states that she is out of jail, but still not free. “Loujain is at home” her sister Lina al-Hathloul wrote on Twitter. She also posted a screenshot of a video conversation with her sister in which she was seen smiling.
Her other sister, Alia al-Hathloul, said this about her sister’s release during an online press conference: “It was a very special moment when I saw her, a moment I’ll never forget. She’s such a strong woman. That’s the woman I know. We’re happy she’ll now be able to sleep in a warm bed.”
Who is Loujain al-Hathloul?
Al-Hathloul was an instrumental figure as she fought against the Saudi law that prohibited women from driving. Al-Hathloul in support of the movement drove from the UAE to Saudi Arabia and documented it. But later on she was sent to prison for 73 days for defying the ban.
She stood for the municipal elections in 2015, becoming one of the first Saudi women to do so, even though she was banned from contesting the polls without being given valid reasons. Al-Hathloul later told Agence France-Presse that she wanted to run “to increase the percentage of women’s participation,” and that too resulted in hundreds of women contesting elections, marked as a monumental achievement.
It’s being noted that the laws that had been imposed by Saudi Arabia were not doing any justice to the women. In 2016, al-Hathloul launched a movement against the other such law named “Saudi guardianship law” by sending a petition to King Salman calling for an end of the law. Her petition had 14,000 co-signatories. The law comes under ‘Wilayah’ male guardianship system which requires Saudi women to seek the permission or accompaniment of a close male relative in matters of work, leisure, finances, law, and health.
Why was Loujain al-Hathloul detained?
In March 2018, Hathloul was arrested in the UAE and forcibly flown to Riyadh where she was held under house arrest before being moved to a prison in May. After months of rigorous detention, her trial began in Riyadh in May 2019. On December 28, 2020, she was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison under the country’s counter-terrorism law, on charges of communicating with foreign diplomats, journalists and rights organizations and bringing forth the women’s rights.
How Biden is connected with Al-Hathloul’s release?
Al-Hathloul’s family had pinned their hopes on an ongoing US president. Biden’s commitment of a tougher stance on Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses was in direct contrast to Trump’s who had earlier dismissed such concerns. The fact that her release expedited within a month of President Biden entering the Oval Office is not a coincidence according to many Saudi activists. Biden has also promised to adopt a tougher stance on the Saudis funding of the war in Yemen under the Crown Prince. After taking the Biden’s commitment into consideration, Saudi analysts depict that it’s time to sanction their role in Yemen, and also to make small compromises, one such is the releasing of this Women activist.