Sister of imprisoned activist is shocked that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo isn’t planning on mentioning her plight during visit to Saudi Arabia.

Alia Al-Hathloul’s sister Loujain is being detained in a Saudi Arabian prison purely for standing up for women’s right in the country.

Alia is shocked that when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visits Saudi Arabia this week, many brave women activists, who are being held in the kingdom’s prisons for seeking rights and dignity will not be on the agenda.

According to the New York Times, Loujain al-Hathloul has worked relentlessly to earn Saudi women the right to drive and is a familiar face in standing up for women’s rights in the kingdom.

Loujain was first arrested in December 2014 after she tried to drive from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia. She was released after more than 70 days in prison and placed under a travel ban for several months. In September 2017, the Saudi government announced that the ban on women driving would be lifted, but an official from the royal court banned Loujain from commenting or talking about it on social media.

Loujain then moved to the UAE to study a master’s degree in applied sociological research at Sorbonne University’s Abu Dhabi campus. But in March, she was pulled over by security officers while driving, put on a plane and transferred to a prison in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. She was released after a few days, but banned from traveling outside the kingdom and warned not to use social media.

Finally, Loujain was arrested in May and her family hoped she would be released on June 24th, the date for removing the ban on women driving. But Loujain was not released and remains in prison to this day.
Between May and August, Loujain was held in solitary confinement under arrest in a hotel in the kingdom’s capital, thought to be the Ritz-Carlton.

In mid-August, Loujain was transferred to Dhaban prison in Jeddah and her parents were allowed to visit her once a month. She was shaking and upset.

In late November, several newspapers, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International reported that both male and female political and human rights activists in Saudi prisons had been tortured. Some reports mentioned sexual assaults.

Loujain’s parents asked her about the reports and she collapsed in tears. She said she had been tortured between May and August, when she was not allowed any visitors. She said she had been held in solitary confinement, beaten, waterboarded, given electric shocks, sexually harassed and threatened with rape and murder. Her thighs were blackened by bruises.

Alia said that Saud al-Qahtani, a top royal adviser, was present several times when Loujain was tortured. Sometimes Qahtani laughed at her, sometimes he threatened to rape and kill her and throw her body into the sewage system.

A delegation from the Saudi Human Rights Commission visited her after the publication of the reports about her torture. She told the delegation everything she had endured. She asked them if they would protect her. “We can’t”, the delegates replied.

Even today, Alia is torn about writing about Loujain, scared that speaking about her ordeal might harm her. But these long months and absence of hope have only increased Alia’s quest to see her brave sister freed. She will keep fighting for justice and fighting for Loujain.


Omar Hajjar is a journalist based in the UK. An investigative reporter, he has lived in 3 different countries in the Middle East over the past 10 years.

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