TORONTO – Imprisoned women’s rights activist Loujine al-Hathloul is appealing to Western leaders to use the upcoming Virtual G20 summit to call for her sister’s release amid continuing concerns about her health and safety.
Al-Hathloul, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee and a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has been jailed for more than two years without trial for her role in the women’s rights movement.
She and dozens of other prominent women activists are facing trial after being detained in a severe repression case over dissent last year. They vehemently denied allegations that their investigators were being tortured, such as electric shocks, beatings and detention.
Now, almost a month after she went on a hunger strike to protest her regular contact with her parents, her family is increasingly concerned for her health and safety.
“She was never mentally depressed and weak. She never saw the end of the tunnel,” her sister Lena al-Hathloul recently told reporters in Berlin. “She thinks this is not the end of hell.”
With Saudi Arabia hosting the Virtual G20 summit, the activist family is calling on Western governments to take a stand and release women’s rights activists, with some calling for a boycott of the event.
“Dear G20 leaders, My activist sister ou Loujain Hathloul has been in jail since May 2018 and she is on her 23rd hunger strike. Saudi Arabia has refused to give us any access to her, ”her sister tweeted on Thursday.
“Are you going to ask about her? Are you going to call for her release? ”
Ironically, women’s empowerment is an important element of this weekend event.
“The Saudi G20 Presidency is strongly committed to maintaining the momentum built up under the previous G20 Presidencies and to making strong progress to empower women and girls in line with Sustainable Development Goal 5.” Reads the agenda.
But the Saudi regime has been accused of “sports-washing”, hosting high-level events such as the Ladies’ European Golf Tour as a way to divert attention from their human rights issues.
CTV News sought to contact the Saudi embassy in London, UK regarding the allegations; However, those calls were not answered.
The ambassador recently quoted that his country was considering an apology to women activists before the G20, a rare and surprising acknowledgment later denied by the embassy.
It was reported in August that Saudi authorities had ordered the release of al-Hathloul in lieu of video evidence condemning her torture and sexual abuse in prison.
“Saudi state security recently visited my sister in prison. They asked her to appear on video to deny the violence and harassment,” her brother Walid al-Hathloul, who is in Canada, said on Twitter. “That’s part of the deal to release her.”
Those who know al-Hathloul say she has always been dedicated to activism.
“I asked her what she would like to do when she graduated and I am going back to Saudi to fight for women’s rights,” UBC professor Sima Godfrey told CTV News.
Al-Hathloul has been named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2019 “for his fierce opposition to Saudi male protectionism.