In 2013, Loujain al-Hathloul was detained for more than 70 days after she attempted to live stream herself driving from neighbouring United Arab Emirates into Saudi Arabia. (Facebook)

In another show of courage, al-Hathloul again defies Saudi authorities


I missed it last week when it came across the wires.

Perhaps you did as well.

It’s a story that bears repeating.

It involves a person who lived among us here in Canada from 2009 to 2013 as she was majoring in French at the University of British Columbia.

Al-Hathloul has been described as one of the most outspoken women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia. As the Saudi regime annouces ‘reforms,’ she remains in prison, having rejected a demand that she make a video denying that was tortured. (Loujain al-Hathloul/Facebook)

Her name is Loujain al-Hathloul.

You’ve likely heard of her.

She’s in prison in Saudi Arabia at the moment.

Her crime: trying to push her country forward, as an advocate for human rights.

The result: prison–again–in 2018 as part of a crackdown on government critics.

Al-Hathloul, a UBC graduate who turned 30 in Ha’er Prison in July, has been detained sporadically since 2013 and has not left jail since May of last year. Her family says she has been tortured with electric shocks. (Marieke Wijntjes/Amnesty International/HO-Reuters)

Since then, there have numerous reports that she was being tortured.

When authorities announced “reforms” last month, al-Hathloul, along with more than a few other reformers, remained in prison.

The news reports that surfaced last week told a story–once again–of  al-Hathloul’s steel will and extraordinary courage.

Her family says authorities told her she could leave if she would agree to make a video clearing her torturers.

Demonstrators from Amnesty International staged a protest in March to urge Saudi authorities to release jailed women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef outside the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Paris. (Benoit Tessier/Reuters)

After initially agreeing to sign a document denying the torture, the video was a line al-Hathloul refused to cross.

“When the state security asked her to sign the document for the video release, she immediately ripped the document,” her brother Walid al-Hathloul, who lives in Canada, wrote on Twitter.

“She told them by asking me to sign this document you are involved in the cover up and you’re simply trying (to) defend Saud Al-Qahtani who was overseeing the torture.”

Jacqueline Hansen is Amnesty International Canada’s Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner, whose work covers a wide range of human rights concerns in Canada and internationally.

Jacqueline Hansen is Amnesty International Canada’s Major Campaigns and Women’s Rights Campaigner. (Courtesy: Amnesty International Canada)

I spoke with her by phone Monday at her office in Ottawa.

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One comment on “In another show of courage, al-Hathloul again defies Saudi authorities
  1. Avatar Peter Ashcroft says:

    In Saudi Arabia dictatorial powers sometimes overrule human rights in the imprisonment and torture of some citizens accused of apparent crimes. Is this an alternative to criminal judgement?