Crackdown

At least 10 women’s rights activists arrested in Saudi Arabia weeks before driving ban is set to be lifted

Loujain al-Hathloul (Amnesty International)

Saudi Arabia has been on a public relations blitz in recent months. Ever since the kingdom announced last September that it would begin allowing women to drive in June 2018, government officials have been making a concerted effort to show off a more progressive side of Saudi Arabia. The kingdom even hosted its first-ever fashion week last month.

But just weeks ahead of the landmark cultural shift, Saudi Arabia’s darker side has reared its head again as the government arrested at least 10 women’s rights activists. Some of those who were arrested have been held for more than a week now and, according to The Associated Press, only allowed one phone call to family members since being taken into custody. Seven of those arrested are women, and three are men. Some of those arrested are in their 60s and 70s and no one knows exactly where the 10 are being held.

Among those arrested is Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the most outspoken women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia. She has been detained numerous times over the years for a host of reasons, including live-streaming herself breaking the driving ban — while she was outside of the country.

Earlier this year, al-Hathloul, who is in her late 20s, was arrested in Abu Dhabi and then returned to Saudi Arabia, where a travel ban was placed on her. Her Twitter feed has gone dark since then, leaving a tweet pinned to the top of her feed containing a video in which rails against the country’s male guardianship rule and urges the government to introduce reforms about the controversial practice that many still believe is even worse than the driving ban. Watch that video below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.

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