Saudi Arabia Releases Women’s Rights Activist; Family Says It’s Not Yet ‘Freedom’

Women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is released after more than 1,000 days in prison.
This picture taken February 10, 2021 in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh shows a woman viewing a tweet posted by the sister of Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, Lina, showing a screenshot of them having a video call following Hathloul's release after nearly three years in detention. - Saudi authorities on February 10 released the prominent women's rights activist, her family said, as the kingdom comes under renewed US pressure over its human rights record. Hathloul, 31, was arrested in May 2018 with about a dozen other women activists just weeks before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on female drivers, a reform they had long campaigned for, sparking a torrent of international criticism. (Photo by Fayez Nureldine / AFP) (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison after 1,001 days, but her family is noting that it shouldn’t yet be called “freedom.”

Hathloul, 31, was arrested in May 2018 on charges that have been described as “politically-motivated.” According to CNN, she was detained during a “sweep that targeted well-known opponents of the kingdom’s since-rescinded law barring women from driving.”

Her sister tweeted a photo of the smiling activist on Wednesday, announcing that “Loujain is at home!”

Hathloul’s imprisonment drew international attention from celebrities and human rights groups. After she had been imprisoned for a year, members of her family who were living abroad decided to shift their awareness campaign to the United States while her family in Saudi Arabia remained under a travel ban.

The news of her release comes after President Biden announced last week that his administration will halt “U.S. support for offensive operations by the Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement in Yemen.”

As reported by Reuters, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki then avoided answering a question about imposing sanctions “on Saudi Arabia for the 2018 murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.”
Psaki commented generally on the Biden administration’s strategy regarding the kingdom’s human rights issues. “We, of course, expect Saudi Arabia to improve its record on human rights,” Psaki said. “That includes releasing political prisoners such as women’s rights advocates from Saudi jails.”

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