(Op-Ed) Loujain al-Hathloul, Woman Civil Rights Activist in Saudi Arabia
Updated: Jan 27, 2021
Author: Rizwan Amir;
Source: Reuters (UK), "Saudi women's rights activists stand trial in criminal court"
For centuries, the political, intellectual, and technological achievements of men have been recognized for their ability to push humanity forward. From the likes of John Locke to Barack Obama, men have continuously been glorified by the general public. And yet, one group never quite gets the acknowledgment it deserves: women. Misogyny and stigma allow the male population to progress while women are left to fight twice as hard.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, I recognize Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the most important women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia. Her outspoken criticism of the Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory laws has allowed for changes such as allowing women to drive. And her activism has brought awareness to misogynistic legislation that has been upheld in the government for years.
Loujain al-Hathloul, a graduate from the University of British Columbia, began her career in activism as a social media figure, posting videos of herself driving as part of the 2013 campaign for women to drive in Saudi Arabia. In December 2014, she was detained by the Saudi government for 73 days for attempting to drive across the border from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia.
Source: CNN, "Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul goes on trial in Riyadh"
Al-Hathloul’s next course of action was to run for election in November 2015 which was the first time women gained both the right to stand and vote in state elections. Yet, in the end, her name was not even added to the ballot. In 2016, along with 14,000 others, she signed a petition to end the male guardianship system which restricted women from marrying or traveling outside the country without a male guardian’s permission.
Unfortunately, due to her activism and repeated disdain for the Saudi government, along with fellow activists, al-Hathloul was detained in May 2018. This was a month before the Saudi government would officially lift the ban against women driving. Until March 2019, she was held without charges or trial. During that time, she had been beaten and tortured with techniques ranging from waterboarding to electric shock. Reports have surfaced that she has also endured sexual abuse. As of today, she is still in custody awaiting her next trial.
Despite being a political prisoner, al-Hathloul’s activism has spread globally. Her voice has inspired young women across the world to stand up to discrimination and prejudice against women. As Sarah Leah Whitson says in TIME 100 Most Influential People 2019, al-Hathloul is “a model of Saudi womanhood.”
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