Jump to content

Loujain al-Hathloul

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Loujain al-Hathloul
لجين الهذلول
Born (1989-07-31) 31 July 1989 (age 34)
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Alma materUniversity of British Columbia[1]
Known forDefying female driving ban in Saudi Arabia
(m. 2014; div. 2018)
FamilyLina al-Hathloul (sister)
AwardsVáclav Havel Human Rights Prize (2020)

Loujain al-Hathloul (Arabic: لجين الهذلول Lujjayn al-Hadhlūl; born 31 July 1989) is a Saudi women's rights activist, a social media figure, and political prisoner. She has been arrested on several occasions for defying the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia. In May 2018, she and several prominent women's rights activists were kidnapped in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and deported to Saudi Arabia where they were charged with "attempting to destabilise the kingdom." Her ex-husband, Saudi stand-up comedian Fahad al-Butairi, had also been forcibly returned from Jordan to the Kingdom and was under arrest.[3][4][5]

For her women's rights activism, Al-Hathloul has been awarded the 2019 PEN America /Barbey Freedom to Write Award[6] and the 2020 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.[7][8] She is one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People of 2019".[9] She was released from prison on 10 February 2021,[10][11] but lives under a travel ban.[12]

Early life and education[edit]

She is a graduate of the University of British Columbia.[13][14]

Women's rights activism (2014–2017)[edit]

Al-Hathloul is known both for her role in the women to drive movement and in opposing the Saudi male guardianship system.[15] On 1 December 2014, she was arrested and detained for 73 days after an attempt to cross the border in her car from the UAE to Saudi Arabia, on charges related to defying the female driving ban in the kingdom.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22] She had a UAE driver's license but the Saudi police still arrested her.[23] Al-Hathloul attempted to stand in Saudi local elections in December 2015, the first vote in Saudi Arabia to include women, but was barred.[24][25]

In September 2016, along with 14,000 others, al-Hathloul signed a petition to King Salman asking for the male guardianship system to be abolished.[15] On 4 June 2017, she was arrested and detained at King Fahd International Airport in Dammam. The reason for the arrest was not officially disclosed, although Amnesty International believed it was for her human rights activism, and al-Hathloul was not allowed access to a lawyer or any contact with her family.[26]

2018–2020 detention and torture[edit]

Loujain Al-Hathloul was kidnapped from UAE in March 2018 and deported to Saudi Arabia, where she was arrested for a few days and then put under a travel ban.[27] Al-Hathloul was detained again on the eve of 15 May 2018, along with Eman al-Nafjan, Aisha al-Mana, Aziza al-Yousef, Madeha al-Ajroush and some men[28][15][29] involved in campaigning for women's rights in Saudi Arabia.[30][31] Human Rights Watch interpreted the purpose of the arrests as frightening "anyone expressing skepticism about the crown prince's rights agenda".[15][32]

In June 2018, women were granted the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, while al-Hathloul remained under arrest. According to ALQST and Amnesty International, Saudi Arabia tortured al-Hathloul and several other women detained for their women's rights activities. Torture techniques, which included being beaten on their feet, given electric shocks, and whipped, were used in a torture location called "the hotel" or "the officer's guesthouse".[33][34] According to Loujain al-Hathloul's sister Alia (who lives in Brussels, Belgium), torture techniques used specifically against Loujain also included beating, electric shocks and waterboarding, and the torture occurred between May and August 2018. Loujain al-Hathloul's parents stated that Loujain's "thighs were blackened by bruises" when they visited and that Loujain "was shaking uncontrollably, unable to hold her grip, to walk or sit normally" during their visit.[35] According to Alia al-Hathloul, Saud al-Qahtani visited al-Hathloul during her torture, laughing at her, threatening to rape and kill her and to dispose of her body in the sewage system, and he tortured her "all night during Ramadan".[35] Alia al-Hathloul stated that she had expected that under Saudi norms about women, her sister would not have been tortured.[35]

In December 2018, al-Hathloul was in jail with her fellow activists at Dhahban Central Prison.[36][37][34] According to her brother Walid al-Hathloul (who lives in Ontario, Canada), al-Hathloul was by February 2019 held in al-Ha'ir Prison.[38]

On 1 March 2019, the office of Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor announced that the preliminary investigation had been completed and they would be preparing to try al-Hathloul and other activists in court for undermining state security.[39] On 13 March 2019, the trial began, although the charges were not specified and reporters and diplomats were barred from attending.[40][41] In April 2019, a hearing on her case was postponed without a reason being given.[42]

In May 2020, her trial was indefinitely postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has raised concerns over her health inside the Saudi prison.[43]

On 11 August 2020, her other sister Lina al-Hathloul (a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated campaigner), expressed fear about the possibility of the activist being tortured again in the Saudi prison, as she has not been heard from for over 60 days.[44]

Loujain al-Hathloul had been held in incommunicado detention for three months. When she learned that other detainees were allowed to call their families, she went on a six-day hunger strike to demand the same. She was then allowed to meet her parents. Saudi Arabia has restricted many prominent human rights activists, clerics, and royal family members from contacting their family or lawyer, raising concern over their safety and wellbeing.[45]

On 15 September 2020, around 30 countries called on Saudi Arabia to release jailed women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul and four other women in detention who campaigned for women to drive.[46]

On 8 October 2020, the European Parliament called for Saudi Arabia to release all the human rights activists, particularly the campaigners for the Women to drive movement, including Loujain al-Hathloul, in a resolution passed against the Kingdom's human rights records. Highlighting the situation of these dissidents and migrants in the country's detention centers, the MEPs also urged the European Union states to cut down their representation at Saudi's G20 Summit.[47]

At the end of October 2020, Loujain al-Hathloul started a hunger strike.[48] According to Hathloul's sisters, Lina and Alia, who broke the news on Twitter, the activist started her hunger strike on 26 October 2020 against the al-Hair prison administration, demanding regular contact with her family and siblings.[49] On 10 November 2020, the Saudi ambassador to the U.K. said that Saudi Arabia was considering to release women rights activist Loujain Al-Hatloul, ahead of its hosting of the G20 summit in November. The decision was considered after the international political pressure to release her, as she was on a weeks-long hunger strike.[50]

On 25 November 2020, after the Riyadh G20 summit was concluded, Loujain al-Hathloul was transferred to a special court for terrorism and national security crimes.[51] Her sister, Lina al-Hathloul, feared that Loujain was being pressured into giving false confessions, which could be used against her during the trial.[52]

On 29 November 2020, seven European envoys released a joint statement condemning the continued detention of five women's rights activists, including Loujain al-Hathloul, whose case was referred to a special court for terrorism-related offences. The envoys demanded the release of Hathloul, who had been in jail since May 2018 after a sweep targeted prominent critics of the kingdom's former law barring women from driving.[53]

On 28 December 2020, al-Hathloul was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison.[54] On 10 February 2021, al-Hathloul's sister announced on Twitter that she had been released from prison.[55][11]

On 10 March 2021, Al-Hathloul's sister said that a Riyadh court upheld the sentencing of Loujain. She is subject to many restrictions including a five-year travel ban.[56]

In 2021, she gave her iPhone to the Canadian Citizen Lab for forensic examination after it was hacked, leading to the discovery of spyware by the Israeli NSO group. Technical information uncovered by Bill Marczak's team at the lab allowed Apple to warn thousands of its users, including U.S. State Department employees in Uganda. Researchers also discovered that spyware from QuaDream, another Israeli vendor, took advantage of the same "zero-click" vulnerability in iPhones.[57]

In December 2021, al-Hathloul announced she and the Electronic Frontier Foundation would be suing three former American intelligence officers, Marc Baier, Ryan Adams, and Daniel Gericke, accusing the officers of hacking her communications devices, leading to her kidnapping in the UAE and deportation to Saudi Arabia.[58] The three officers had already admitted to providing the UAE with hacking services and equipment in a separate case.[59]


She was recognized as one of the BBC's 100 women of 2017.[60]

Al-Hathloul was ranked third in the "Top 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015" list.[61][62][63][64] In March 2019, PEN America announced that Nouf Abdulaziz, al-Hathloul, and Eman al-Nafjan would receive the 2019 PEN America/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.[6] Al-Hathloul was named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People of 2019".[9]

Al-Hathloul was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 and 2020.[65] In April 2021, she was announced as the winner of the 2020 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize.[7][8][2]

The children's book Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers: A Story Inspired by Loujain Alhathloul, written by Lina Alhathloul and Uma Mishra-Newbery and illustrated by Rebecca Green, was published by minedition in 2022.[66][67]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ghoussoub, Michelle (29 May 2018). "Incredibly fierce' UBC graduate among activists detained in Saudi Arabia". CBC News. Archived from the original on 30 May 2018. A graduate of the University of British Columbia is among 10 activists recently arrested in Saudi Arabia. Loujain Al-Hathloul attended UBC between 2009 and 2014, graduating with a degree in French.
  2. ^ a b Nordlinger, Jay (18 January 2021). "A Saudi Woman". National Review. Retrieved 24 January 2022.
  3. ^ Hubbard, Ben (8 October 2018). "'Our Hands Can Reach You': Khashoggi Case Shakes Saudi Dissidents Abroad". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Reveal Fate of Jamal Khashoggi". Human Rights Watch. 11 October 2018.
  5. ^ Kristof, Nicholas (26 January 2019). "She Wanted to Drive, So Saudi Arabia's Ruler Imprisoned and Tortured Her". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  6. ^ a b "Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, Eman Al-Nafjan". PEN America. 12 September 2019. Retrieved 13 February 2020.
  7. ^ a b Nadim Aburakia, Marcel (19 April 2021). "Loujain Al-Hathloul wins Vaclav Havel Human Rights Prize". Deutsche Welle. Retrieved 19 April 2021.
  9. ^ a b "The 100 Most Influential People of 2019". TIME. Retrieved 22 September 2020.
  10. ^ Smith, Saphora (10 February 2021). "Loujain al-Hathloul, Saudi women's rights activist, released from prison, her family says". NBC News.
  11. ^ a b "Loujain al-Hathloul: Saudi women's rights activist released from prison". BBC News. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  12. ^ Dubai, Associated Press in (10 March 2021). "'Another abuse of power' as Saudi court upholds Loujain al-Hathloul's travel ban". the Guardian. Retrieved 17 August 2022.
  13. ^ Ghoussoub, Michelle (22 November 2018). "Concern grows for UBC grad after report Saudi Arabia tortured activists". CBC News. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Raif Badawi Is Still in Prison Over a Series of Blog Posts". Time. 29 April 2021. Retrieved 28 September 2021.
  15. ^ a b c d "Saudi Arabia: Women's Rights Advocates Arrested — Jumping Ahead of Crown Prince's Reforms Risks Jail Time". Human Rights Watc. 18 May 2018. Archived from the original on 21 May 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  16. ^ "Two Saudi Women Who Were Detained for Defying a Driving Ban Have Been Freed". Time magazine. 13 February 2015. Archived from the original on 29 October 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2015. Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysaa al-Amoudi had been held since Dec. 1, after al-Hathloul, 25, attempted to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates, Agence France-Presse reports.
  17. ^ "Saudi Women Free After 73 Days in Jail for Driving". The New York Times. 13 February 2015. Archived from the original on 27 September 2017.
  18. ^ "Saudi women jailed for driving 'released from prison' after two months". The Independent. 13 February 2015. Archived from the original on 12 October 2017.
  19. ^ "Saudi Arabia Releases Two Women Drivers From Jail". The Wall Street Journal. 13 February 2015. Archived from the original on 27 May 2018.
  20. ^ "Saudi women drivers 'freed from jail'". BBC News. 13 February 2015. Archived from the original on 15 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Women who defied Saudi Arabia's driving ban freed after months in jail". Mashable. 13 February 2015. Archived from the original on 6 October 2017.
  22. ^ "Saudi women who defied driving ban 'freed from jail'". France 24. 13 February 2015. Archived from the original on 31 March 2018. Retrieved 7 March 2015.
  23. ^ Murphy, Brian (10 December 2015). "Once jailed for defying a driving ban, this Saudi woman is now standing for office". The Sydney Morning Herald. The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Two disqualified as first Saudi women begin campaign for election". The Guardian. Agence France-Presse. 29 November 2015. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  25. ^ Spencer, Richard (14 December 2015). "Saudi Arabian women voted for the first time but still can't drive. Should we be celebrating?". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  26. ^ Mortimer, Caroline (8 June 2017). "Saudi Arabia jails human rights activist who defied women's driving ban". The Independent. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Loujain al-Hathloul deserves her freedom. They all deserve freedom". رصيف 22. 12 March 2019. Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  28. ^ "Female activists detained ahead of Saudi driving ban reversal". The National. 20 May 2018. Archived from the original on 5 June 2018. Some state-linked media outlets published the names of those detained, which include Loujain al-Hathloul, Aziza al-Yousef and Eman al-Najfan.
  29. ^ Sarah El Sirgany, Hilary Clarke (21 May 2018). "Saudi Arabia arrests female activists weeks before lifting of driving ban". CNN. Archived from the original on 21 May 2018. Retrieved 31 May 2018. Activists Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef and Aisha Almane were arrested last week, along with four male supporters, the government and Saudi media said Friday.
  30. ^ Batrawy, Aya (18 May 2018). "Six women's driving advocates in Saudi Arabia arrested". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on 5 June 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  31. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Chilling smear campaign against women's rights defenders". Amnesty International. 19 May 2018. Archived from the original on 5 June 2018.
  32. ^ "Saudi Arabia 'arrests women's rights activists'". Al Jazeera English. 19 May 2018. Archived from the original on 20 May 2018. Retrieved 19 May 2018.
  33. ^ "ALQST Confirms New Details of Torture of Saudi Women Activists as British MPs Seek Access to Prisons to Investigate". ALQST. 3 January 2019. Archived from the original on 12 January 2019. Retrieved 12 January 2019.
  34. ^ a b "Saudi Arabia: Reports of torture and sexual harassment of detained activists". Amnesty.org. Amnesty International. 20 November 2018. Archived from the original on 13 January 2019. Retrieved 21 November 2018.
  35. ^ a b c al-Hathloul, Alia (13 January 2019). "My Sister Is in a Saudi Prison. Will Mike Pompeo Stay Silent?". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 14 January 2019. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  36. ^ "Saudi women can now drive — but activists jailed". ABC News. 24 June 2018. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  37. ^ "Saudi driving ban ends as women's rights activists remain jailed". Aljazeera.com. Retrieved 25 June 2018.
  38. ^ "Brother of Saudi woman 'being tortured in prison' fears her treatment is getting worse". The Independent. 22 February 2019.
  39. ^ Hubbard, Ben (2 March 2019). "Saudi Arabia Moves Toward Trials of Women's Rights Activists". The New York Times. Retrieved 4 March 2019.
  40. ^ Oppenheim, Maya (13 March 2019). "Saudi women's rights campaigner who has been 'tortured and sexually harassed in prison' goes on trial". The Independent. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  41. ^ "Saudi women's rights activists go on trial in Riyadh". The Guardian. Reuters. 13 March 2019. Retrieved 14 March 2019.
  42. ^ "Trial for Saudi activists who've served a year in prison has been delayed". Public Radio International. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
  43. ^ Da Silva, Chantal (15 May 2020). "Saudi Women's Rights Activist Detained for Two Years While Awaiting Trial Must Be Released During Pandemic, Sister Says". Newsweek. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  44. ^ "Sister of Saudi women's rights activist fears she is being tortured, as she hasn't been heard from in months". Independent. 11 August 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  45. ^ "Saudi Arabia: Prominent Detainees Held Incommunicado". Human Rights Watch. 6 September 2020. Retrieved 6 September 2020.
  46. ^ "UN slams Saudi Arabia in rare rebuke". DW. Retrieved 15 September 2020.
  47. ^ "European Parliament resolution on the situation of Ethiopian migrants in detention centres in Saudi Arabia". European Parliament. Retrieved 7 October 2020.
  48. ^ "Loujain al-Hathloul: U.N. experts alarmed by jailed Saudi activist's health". BBC News. 5 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  49. ^ "Prominent Saudi women's rights activist on hunger strike in detention, says family". Reuters. 27 October 2020. Retrieved 27 October 2020.
  50. ^ "Saudi Arabia considers clemency for female activists ahead of G20". The Guardian. 10 November 2020. Retrieved 10 November 2020.
  51. ^ Hubbard, Ben (25 November 2020). "Saudi Activist Who Fought For Women's Right to Drive Is Sent to Terrorism Court". The New York Times.
  52. ^ "Saudi Arabia to put women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul on trial". The Guardian. 24 November 2020. Retrieved 24 November 2020.
  53. ^ "European envoys urge Saudi Arabia to release women's rights activists". CNN. 29 November 2020. Retrieved 30 November 2020.
  54. ^ "Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul jailed for 5 years, 8 months". France 24. 28 December 2020. Retrieved 28 December 2020.
  55. ^ "Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul released from prison". the Guardian. Associated Press in. 10 February 2021. Retrieved 10 February 2021.
  56. ^ "Loujain al-Hathloul: Saudi activist 'loses appeal against sentence'". BBC News. 10 March 2021. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  57. ^ Schectman, Joel; Bing, Christopher (17 February 2022). "How a Saudi woman's iPhone revealed hacking around the world". Reuters. Retrieved 19 February 2022.
  58. ^ Kirchgaessner, Stephanie (9 December 2021). "Saudi women's rights activist sues three ex-US intel operatives over hacking for UAE". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 December 2021.
  59. ^ "3 Former U.S. Intelligence Operatives Admit Hacking for United Arab Emirates". NPR. 14 September 2021.
  60. ^ "BBC 100 Women 2017: Who is on the list?". BBC News. 27 September 2017. Retrieved 17 December 2022.
  61. ^ "The 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015: 3. Loujain al-Hathloul". ArabianBusiness.com. 4 March 2015. Archived from the original on 10 February 2020.
  62. ^ Sheffield, Hazel (4 March 2015). "Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi, and Amal Clooney named most powerful Arab women in the world". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 October 2017. Loujain Al Hathloul, at number three on the list, hit the headlines in December after she was arrested for driving across the border from the UAE to Saudi Arabia. She has now been freed from prison after reigniting the debate about women's right to drive.
  63. ^ "21 Saudis among 100 most powerful Arab women". Arab News. 4 March 2015. Archived from the original on 22 September 2017. Retrieved 7 March 2015. Loujain Al-Hathloul from Saudi Arabia is in third place for her achievements on the cultural and social fronts, while Saudi businesswoman Lubna Olayan came in at fourth for her role in the banking and finance sector.
  64. ^ "From a retail tycoon to Amal Clooney: meet the Arab World's most powerful women". Al Bawaba. 6 March 2015. Archived from the original on 1 August 2017. Loujain Al Hathloul, at number three on the list, hit the headlines in December after she was arrested for driving across the border from the UAE to Saudi Arabia. She has now been freed from prison after reigniting the debate about women's right to drive.
  65. ^ "Saudi Arabia jails women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul". Deutsche Welle. 28 December 2020.
  66. ^ Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers. Kirkus Reviews.
  67. ^ "Loujain Dreams of Sunflowers: A Story Inspired by Loujain AlHathloul by Uma Mishra-Newbery, Lina Al-Hathloul". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  68. ^ "Alqst and Over 160 groups call for accountability following murder of journalist and widespread arrest of women's rights defenders". ALQST. 26 October 2018. Archived from the original on 28 October 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2018.
  69. ^ von Hein, Matthias (10 August 2017). "Is Saudi Arabia waging war on its Shiite minority?". Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 25 August 2018. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  70. ^ Brennan, David (21 August 2018). "Who Is Israa al-Ghomgham? Female Saudi Activist May Be Beheaded After Death Sentence". Newsweek. Archived from the original on 24 August 2018. Retrieved 24 August 2018.

External links[edit]