RIYADH (Dispatches) – The family of the Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul has condemned Saudi Arabia’s alleged drive to expand female empowerment, a day after authorities released her from prison.
According to CNN, the activist’s Brussels-based sister Lina Al-Hathloul – who was a prominent leader of the international campaign for Loujain’s release – stated: "We really see that women empowerment is a lie in Saudi Arabia, that there are no real reforms.”
Over the past few years, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) has enacted a series of drastic social reforms linking it with its broader aims for its Vision 2030 economic drive.
One of the most popular reforms was the right for women to drive, which Loujain al-Hathloul was a prominent advocate for. However, al-Hathloul was arrested by authorities in May 2018 in a series of sweeping arrests throughout the kingdom.
Lina said the almost four-year-long detention of her sister shows that "people are still oppressed and even more so now…there is really an atmosphere of fear under MbS.”
At a press conference on Thursday, Lina and her other sibling, Alia, called for "real justice” in the case of their sister Loujain.
Loujain had fought for years for women’s rights to drive in Saudi Arabia before being arrested, along with several other female activists, in 2018, shortly after bin Salman rose to power, and only weeks before the heir to the Saudi throne lifted the notorious driving ban as part of his so-called reform campaign.
While incarcerated, Loujain was subjected to severe torture including electric shocks, waterboarding, flogging, and sexual assault, according to the activist herself, her family, and human rights activists.
At the online presser on Thursday, Loujain’s siblings called on people not to say she had been "freed.”
"Loujain is not free. She’s been conditionally released,” said Lina from Brussels.
Both sisters said Lojain would avoid using social media and speaking to journalists for fear of violating her probation, but will continue to seek justice for the torture and sexual assaults she had been subjected to in prison.
"What we want now is real justice,” said Lina, a driving force behind the international campaign for her sister’s release, adding that her sister should be "completely” and "unconditionally” be freed.
"She is very determined to use all means that exist within the legal framework in Saudi Arabia in order to exhaust all the possibilities in order to, I would say, obtain her rights,” Lina said. "It was unjust, and she doesn’t like injustice.”