A well-known female Saudi Arabian activist’s health condition is reportedly deteriorating “extremely” in prison since she started a hunger strike in protest at Saudi authorities’ refusal to allow her family visits.
Loujain Alhathloul was arrested in May 2018 — along with 10 other women rights activists in Saudi Arabia — after protesting the kingdom’s male guardianship system and ban on women’s driving.
She has been kept behind bars, although Riyadh has reportedly relaxed the guardianship rules and began allowing women to drive.
Loujain’s sister, Lina tweeted on Monday, “My parents visited Loujain today. She was on a hunger strike for 6 days after acknowledging some detainees are allowed to call and not her. Her health was deteriorating extremely during her hunger strike.”
The visit came after the family complained they had not heard from her for close to three months.
Last year, his brother, Walid, said that during a visit by his parents, she had told them she was regularly being whipped, beaten, electrocuted, and sexually harassed in a basement that she called the “palace of terror.”
“Whenever Loujain spoke about the torture sessions to my parents, her hands shook uncontrollably. I fear the pain will stay with her forever,” Walid wrote on the CNN website back then.
Loujain graduated from the University of British Columbia in 2013. She was first arrested a year later on charges of violating the driving ban by trying to travel in her car from the UAE to Saudi Arabia.
A similar treatment was reported in the case of imprisoned Saudi Princess Basmah bint Saud in August, when she was said to have not received any “communication from the outside world” since April, London-based pan-Arab media outlet, the New Arab said. Princess Basmah, who is a daughter of late King Saud, was detained with her daughter earlier this year.
The women’s arrest has been identified by observers as “part of a campaign of repression by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de-facto ruler,” the website wrote.
The crown prince’s name has come up frequently in numerous arrest and crackdown sprees throughout the kingdom since 2017, when his predecessor Mohammed bin Nayef was suddenly fired and replaced with bin Salman.
The most prominent of the cases has been that of bin Salman critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed and dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018, with Turkey and the CIA considering the crown prince as the person who had likely ordered the assassination.