Saudis re-arrest women’s rights activist who defied driving ban

arab-womanPETALING JAYA: A Saudi women’s rights activist, who had previously challenged the government’s driving ban, was detained again yesterday, according to Amnesty International (AI).

The human rights organisation condemned the arrest of Loujain al-Hathloul at King Fahad International Airport in Dammam, on June 4, saying it has again shattered any notion that the Saudis are committed to upholding equality and human rights.

“The Saudi Arabian authorities’ continuous harassment of Loujain is absurd and unjustifiable. It appears she is being targeted once again because of her peaceful work as a human rights defender speaking out for women’s rights, which are consistently trammeled in the kingdom. If so she must be immediately and unconditionally released.

“Instead of upholding its promise of a more tolerant Saudi Arabia, the government has again shattered any notion that it is genuinely committed to upholding equality and human rights,” said Samah Hadid, who is AI’s director of campaigns in the Middle-East.

The arrest also comes just over two weeks after United States President Donald Trump visited Saudi Arabia.

Joining Trump on the visit were his wife Melania and daughter Ivanka, who made public appearances without any scarf over their heads and also shook hands with members of the Saudi royal family, both considered taboo even for foreigners previously.

According to AI, Loujain is expected to be brought to Riyadh at 5.30pm (Saudi time) today to be interrogated by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution.

“She has no access to a lawyer and has not been allowed to contact her family,” Samah said, adding that the exact reason for her arrest remains unknown.

In November 2014, Loujain was detained after she defied the kingdom’s de facto driving ban for women by attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates. She was detained for 73 days.

She later stood as a candidate in 2015 in the first Saudi election where women were allowed to vote as well as stand in elections.

Interestingly, despite being recognised as a candidate, her name was never added to the ballot.