The sister of an imprisoned Saudi activist criticized a G20 women’s summit hosted in Riyadh this week as a disturbing attempt to whitewash the country’s poor record on women’s rights.
Loujain Al-Hathloul has been in prison for more than two years without trial after a campaign to end Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving and the male guardianship system, which effectively reduces women to the rank of second-class citizens, which requires permission from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Male relatives for many life decisions.
Coordinator of the W20 summit that opened on Wednesday Invited participants “Imagine a world in which women’s equality becomes a reality,” her sister Lina told the Guardian, yet Hathloul and other activists were deprived of their freedom because they fought for this dream inside Saudi Arabia.
“[Summit attendees] Lina Al-Hathloul said: “Legitimize a system that silences all voices in favor of human rights, including those of women. “Women activists are behind bars, and the official charges they face are related to their activism.”
“If women don’t talk about what happens Saudi ArabiaThe situation will not change. “
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is hosting a summit Twenty Group In November, the Women’s Summit – which hosted speakers from international organizations including the United Nations and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – is part of a series of related events.
But high-profile international gatherings have proven to be a magnet for controversy over the country’s human rights record.
Mayors of major cities, including London, New York, Los Angeles, and Paris, Interrupted another major event linked to the G20 Urban 20 Summit – last month, to protest the plight of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
The powerful Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin SalmanHe is widely regarded as the de facto ruler of the country and has presented himself as a reformist modernizer.
In recent years, he has removed restrictions on daily life and allowed women to drive. Reduced powers Of the religious police who patrol women’s clothing, mingle and let Cinemas to open After a decades-long ban.
However, critics say the reforms represent largely superficial changes to life in a country that is one of the few remaining absolute monarchies in the world where complete obedience to the royal family is still required.
In recent years, the Saudi authorities have sought to silence critics at home and around the world. The most famous is the exiled journalist Jamal Khashoggi Killed by government officials At the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
Al-Hathloul was arrested and released several times due to her campaigns, before she was arrested in A. Wider crackdown on women’s rights activists In May 2018, before the ban on women driving was lifted.
“The only thing that has changed [in recent years] “The image of Saudi Arabia in the West,” said Lina Al-Hathloul. There is no place for repair at all. All the reformists are behind bars, and my sister is one of them. What Saudi Arabia wants is whitewashing of all rights violations. “
The summit and its slogan – “If not now, then” – have been attacked as a hypocrisy exercise by other human rights activists.
Grant Liberty, a new human rights group specializing in civil liberties at Saudi Arabia, Described the W20 as “ridiculous and offensive,” and warned that it risked turning the G20 into “a public relations tool for the brutal Mohammed bin Salman regime,” and called for its boycott.
Human Rights Watch also called on women who attended the W20 summit to speak on behalf of the imprisoned activists, saying that while the activists were in prison, “the talk about reform rings hollow.”
“The Saudi government’s use of women’s rights To divert attention Other serious violations are well documented. Recent changes, including Right to drive Traveling without a guardian’s permission may be important, but don’t hide the fact that some of the women who championed these changes are still behind bars. He said in a statement.
Al-Hathloul was accused of undermining national security and working with foreign parties against the state, but two and a half years after her detention, she is still awaiting trial.
Her family says she was tortured in prison, subjected to electric shocks, whipping, prolonged periods of solitary confinement, and sexual harassment.
Earlier this year, she went on hunger strike to campaign against the ban on family visits and phone calls. Lena said her parents were allowed to visit at the end of August, after she agreed to eat and found her skinny but firm.
“It’s crazy how strong and resilient she is. After two and a half years she hasn’t conceded anything, she wants true justice. She still has the power to tell my parents everything, even though she knows she might face a backlash.” [from authorities] on top of that. “
But since then, the family has not been able to contact Login, and Lena said she is not sure if her sister knows about the W20 summit.
“I’m not sure how connected it is to the world, so I can’t comment on what she knows,” she said, adding that the long silence is very disturbing for the family. “It’s always very stressful for us when you don’t call, because it’s our only experience [of communications being cut] When you are tortured or go on hunger strike. “