04/20/2021, 09.34
SAUDI ARABIA - EU
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The Vaclav Havel 2020 award for Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul

The 31-year-old spent over a thousand days in prison fighting the ban on women driving. In prison she was subject to solitary confinement and torture, since February she has been under house arrest and subject to restrictions. Her sister Lina calls for international support to "expose the injustices in my country and to protect the victims".

Strasbourg (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Council of Europe has awarded the coveted Vaclav Havel 2020 human rights prize to the female leader and Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul.

The 31-year-old is at the forefront of the campaign for women's right to drive in the Wahhabi kingdom. The young woman was arrested a few weeks before the cancellation of the ban, which took place in June 2018.

She was sentenced to five years and eight months and had gone on hunger strike against prison conditions, receiving the solidarity of a UN committee that had launched an appeal to King Salman. The woman was released from prison last February, but she will not be able to travel abroad for the next five years by court order.

The European institution Loujain al-Hathloul is considered "one of the most important personalities of the Saudi feminist movement". The woman, explains the note accompanying the awarding of the prize, "has long fought to put an end to the system of male protection, in addition to the prohibition imposed on women from driving, and for a better protection of abused women".

The Saudi activist, continues the text accompanying the assignment of the Council of Europe, "spent 1,001 days in prison for her beliefs and was only freed on February 2021, although she is still under house arrest and subject to other restrictions in her country ".

Her sister Lina al-Hathloul, who received the award yesterday by videoconference representing the assignee, underlined that international support was "the only way for us to unmask the injustices in my country and to protect the victims ".

“Thank you - she then added - for giving us the strength to continue in our battle. Loujain sacrificed herself so that women in Saudi Arabia can have a better life. Because of her own militancy - concluded her sister - she was kidnapped, illegally imprisoned, brutally tortured, placed in solitary confinement for months and now she has been sentenced as a terrorist”.

Saudi Arabia is governed by an absolute Sunni monarchy, based on a Wahhabi fundamentalist view of Islam.

Over the past two years, the Crown Prince’s social reforms included granting women the right to drive cars and to attend sporting events in designated areas of stadiums.

However, the authorities have also cracked down on senior officials, business people, activists and critical voices, most notably in the Jamal Khashoggi affair, raising questions about the real extent of change.

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