PEN America Marks Two Years of Saudi Activist’s Imprisonment
PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honoree Loujain Al-Hathloul must be freed along with all Saudi prisoners of conscience
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(Washington, D.C.) – Today marks two years since women’s rights activist, Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and recipient of the PEN/Barbey 2019 Freedom to Write Award Loujain Al-Hathloul was imprisoned for her advocacy against Saudi Arabia’s stringent female guardianship laws. In response to the heightened dangers posed to prisoners by COVID-19 and the continued delay of Al-Hathloul’s trial, PEN America joins members of Congress and other human rights organizations today in calling for Al-Hathloul’s immediate release, along with the complete exoneration of other Saudi prisons of conscience, including fellow PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honorees Nouf Abdulaziz and Eman Al-Nafjan.
“Today, on the two-year anniversary of her imprisonment, we honor Loujain Al-Hathloul’s incredible bravery and call for Saudi Arabia to release her and other prisoners of conscience,” said Thomas O. Melia, director of PEN America’s Washington D.C. office. “Since the beginning of her detention, Loujain has been tortured, theatened with sexual violence, and subjected to other inhumane living conditions. Now, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and her fellow prisoners are in more danger than ever as the coronavirus threatens the health of inmates who have little access to sufficient medical care or government accountability.”
Al-Hathloul’s arrest was part of a widespread crackdown on women’s rights activists beginning in May 2018, during which at least eight other women were imprisoned for protesting the country’s female guardianship laws. For the past two years, Saudi authorities have kept Al-Hathloul in prolonged periods of solitary confinement and postponed her trial date repeatedly, heightening her family’s concern for her safety.
“Loujain’s family phone calls, her sole source of contact with the outside world, were cut off for several weeks without explanation before recently being restored,” said Melia. “Saudi authorities are unpredictable, and we must recognize that this is a time-sensitive, life-or-death issue for Loujain and take action. She and her fellow prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia must be released immediately.”