Loujain AlHathloul (31) is a Saudi woman human rights activist. She is a leading advocate for the promotion of gender equality and women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.
Before her arrest in 2018, Loujain AlHathloul was one of the key figures of the Women to Drive movement, which called for the abolition of the driving ban for women. She also advocated for the end of the male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia and planned to open a shelter for victims of gender-based violence.
Loujain began her activism in 2013 while still a student of French literature at the University of British Columbia in Canada. Despite the great risks her activism entailed, Loujain AlHathloul decided time and again to carry on her mission of giving a voice to the voiceless.
She was arrested for the first time in 2014 while driving from the UAE to neighboring Saudi Arabia. She has been in detention since May 2018, where she has been subject to torture, solitary confinement, and denial of access to her lawyers, family and medical care. Loujain could have been released on the condition she publicly deny she was tortured while in jail – but she refused to do so. In October 2020, she started a hunger strike to protest against the conditions of her detention. On November 25, her case was transferred to a Specialized Criminal Court, known as “terrorism court”. Her family was given one day only to prepare her defense. On December 28, the Court sentenced Loujain to five years and eight months in jail. The judge suspended 2 years and 10 months in addition to the time already served (since May 2018) which means that Loujain may be freed early 2021.
However, Loujain will be placed on a 5-year travel ban and 3 years of probation during which time any perceived criminal activity would result in her re-imprisonment.
Loujain AlHathloul is the winner of the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award in 2019 and the ‘Prix Liberté’ (Normandie) in 2020. She was named one of TIME Magazine’s most influential people in 2019 and nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, 2020 and 2021.