Amnesty International has lambasted Saudi Arabia for detaining a women’s rights activist for the second time, calling on the kingdom to “immediately and unconditionally” release her.
According to a report by the UK-based rights group on Monday, Loujain al-Hathloul, 27, was arrested by authorities at the King Fahad International Airport in the port city of Dammam, the capital of the restive Eastern Province, on Sunday afternoon.
Hathloul, who was due to travel to Riyadh, was also interrogated by the Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution, Amnesty added.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities’ continuous harassment of Loujain al-Hathloul is absurd and unjustifiable. It appears she is being targeted once again because of her peaceful work as a human rights defender speaking out for women’s rights, which are consistently trammeled in the kingdom,” said Samah Hadid, Director of Campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle East.
Back in early December 2014, Hathloul was arrested for breaking Saudi Arabia’s controversial driving ban on females. In November the same year, she tried to drive into the kingdom from neighboring United Arab Emirates in defiance of the ban. Police held Hathloul for more than two months.
Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prohibits women from driving. The absolute ban is based on a fatwa (religious order) imposed by the country’s Wahhabi clerics. If women get behind the wheel in the kingdom, they may be arrested, sent to court and even flogged.
“Instead of upholding its promise of a more tolerant Saudi Arabia, the government has again shattered any notion that it is genuinely committed to upholding equality and human rights,” Hadid further said.
The rights group added that the exact reason behind Hathloul’s arrest was not yet known, adding that she had no access to lawyer and had not been allowed to contact her family.
In November 2015, when Riyadh allowed first election in which women were allowed to vote, Hathloul tried to stand for public office. Although Saudi authorities initially recognized her as a candidate, they never added her name to the ballot.
In March last year, when it was revealed that Hathloul played a role in a highly-critical documentary about Saudi Arabia, titled Saudi Arabia Uncovered, Saudi authorities even threatened to kill her.