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Saudi Activist Rejects Deal to Recant Torture Allegations

PEN America calls attempt at coercion “beyond Orwellian”


(New York, NY)–Women’s rights activist and 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write honoree Loujain Al-Hathloul rejected Saudi Arabia’s proposal that she deny that she was tortured in exchange for her freedom. Hathloul has been imprisoned alongside other women’s rights activist for over a year. 

“This attempt at coercion is a pathetic effort by the Saudi state to use propaganda to paper over its dire human rights reputation,” said Summer Lopez, PEN America’s senior director of Free Expression Programs. “Loujain has already told the world of the torture she’s endured. This ridiculous request is beyond Orwellian, and it won’t be believed. Saudi abuses are clear to all. Loujain—and all the rights activists imprisoned alongside her—should be immediately and unconditionally released, and the absurd charges against them dropped.”

PEN America granted its annual Freedom to Write award to Al-Hathloul earlier this year, alongside fellow writers and activists Nouf Abdulaziz and Eman Al-Nafjan. In May and June 2018, just as the government was lifting the ban on women driving, many activists who had campaigned against the ban and for women’s rights were arrested. PEN America, in partnerships with their families and fellow activists, have demanded the Saudi government release all three women.


PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. 

CONTACT: Stephen Fee, Director of Communications, sfee@pen.org, +1 202 309 8892

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