'Please don’t forget her': Sister of Saudi women’s rights activist says she is 'terrified' about her safety due to hunger strike

Maya Oppenheim
·3 min read
<p>Human rights organisations say Loujain, who was arrested in 2018, was forced to endure abuse including electric shocks, flogging and sexual harassment while in jail</p> ( )

Human rights organisations say Loujain, who was arrested in 2018, was forced to endure abuse including electric shocks, flogging and sexual harassment while in jail

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The sister of a jailed Saudi women’s rights activist has said she is “terrified” about her safety as she is currently on hunger strike and her family are unable to get in touch with her.

Loujain al-Hathloul, a Nobel prize-nominated activist who has allegedly been tortured in prison, successfully campaigned to win Saudi women the right to drive.

Human rights organisations say Loujain has been forced to endure abuse including electric shocks, flogging and sexual harassment while in jail, since being arrested in 2018 for allegedly attempting to “destabilise" the nation.

Lina al-Hathloul, the campaigner’s younger sister, told The Independent Loujain went on hunger strike on Monday evening over the conditions of her imprisonment - adding that her key request is to have to regular contact with her family.

She said: “She is the only inmate who is being blocked from contacting her relatives. The prison always tells her it’s a general policy which does not only affect her but when she talks to other detainees, it is clear they are allowed to have calls. The prison authorities are punishing her and her family.

“We need support from the international community who need to ask for her release. She has been in prison for almost two and a half years. Loujain shouldn’t be having to go on hunger strike to get basic rights. It feels like we are just waiting to mourn her. The world has a duty to save her and not forget her while she languishes in prison.

“She is going on a hunger strike but we don’t have any news. I am very scared and anxious. It has been more than 48 hours of nobody answering from the Saudi authorities to let us know she is okay. My parents who are inside Saudi Arabia are contacting the prison and state security regularly. Please don’t forget her and help us free her and save her.”

Her 25-year-old sister said the last time her parents saw her sister was Monday but prior to that, they had not seen her since early September.

It comes after she recently said Loujain lives in a “daily hell” and her health was deteriorating due to another hunger strike she staged.

Speaking to The Independent at the end of last month, Ms al-Hathloul said her parents have finally been able to visit Loujain after the family grew increasingly anxious due to not hearing from her for two months.

Loujain, a University of British Columbia graduate who went on a hunger strike for nearly a week back in August, was arrested alongside 10 other women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 – weeks before the country reversed the driving ban.

Grant Liberty, a human rights charity campaigning for Loujain’s release, says there are currently at least 12 female women’s rights activists in Saudi prisons and of those, at least five have been tortured, and at least four have endured some type of sexual violence.

Alia al-Hathloul, Loujain’s older sister, said: “G20 governments have an immediate responsibility to advocate for Loujain. Without her activism, the reforms that Saudi Arabia so publicly touts would not be in place. Loujain must be freed immediately and unconditionally and governments must honour their commitments to human rights”.

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, the mayors of New York, Los Angeles and Paris refused to go to or send a representative to a major international summit last month hosted by Saudi Arabia as part of its chairmanship of the G20.

Her relatives urged the public to join the “Twitter storm” hosted by the #FreeLoujain campaign on Friday 30 October at 1pm EST time to call for the activist to be freed from jail.

Loujain is awaiting trial on charges of communicating with foreign bodies hostile to Saudi, recruiting government employees to collect confidential information and delivering financial support to entities overseas who are hostile to the Kingdom. Saudi officials have denied the torture allegations and said they were investigating claims of maltreatment.

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