Friday (February 12th): Saudi Activist freed!

Loujain al-Hathloul

Name? Loujain al-Hathloul

Westphalian identity? Saudi

Age? 31

Why is she in the news? Loujain al-Hathloul was released after three years of being imprisoned for campaigning for women’s right to drive. Ironically, this happened a few days before the ban on women driving was lifted by Crown Prince MBS, a sign of power and distaste to dissidents. 

Why do we care? This move comes a week after Biden’s speech in which he pledged to withdraw US support for the war in Yemen and become tougher on Saudi Arabia with regards to human rights. So the release of al-Hathloul does not come as a surprise in MBS efforts to appease the new US administration. 

Why should you care? It is simply not nice when activists are jailed; whether Navalny in Russia, Wong in Hongkong or Loujain al-Hathloul. So, when diplomatic pressure works once in a while it is nice to see but at the same time harsh to realise that her freedom is a mere pawn in politics, how cynical. On our How much should you care scale this gets a 6/10. Let’s be happy she is free but aware of the bigger game being played. 

Who else cares? Joe Biden. He is the reason why she is free and she is his present to open relationships with the Kingdom which is still waiting for Biden’s first call to them. After four years of dealing with Trump and his love to pomp and show off, Saudi Arabia has fallen down on the list of priorities for the US. 

Any further comments? So what does this mean for the activists in Saudi Arabia? Well, al-Hathloul is still not allowed to leave the country and others are still imprisoned. Their problem is that while MBS shares their ideals for more women’s rights (out of economic self-interest of course), he cannot give in to pressure and appear weak. All freedoms must come as a gracious gift to the Saudi population.

Joshua Dario Hasenstab

General Coordinator