A prominent female Saudi activist, who has been jailed in the kingdom since 2018, launches an indefinite hunger strike in protest at her detention conditions, especially a ban on her receiving regular calls and visits from her family.
Loujain al-Hathloul’s sister told Reuters on Tuesday that she had started her campaign a day earlier.
She “told [our parents] she is exhausted of being mistreated and deprived from hearing her family’s voices,” Lina al-Hathloul cited her as saying.
Hathoul last went on a hunger strike for six days in August after being allowed to take no more than one family phone call and two visits throughout six months.
The 31-year-old graduate of University of British Columbia in Canada is being held at the capital Riyadh’s al-Hair prison. She has been one of the staunchest supporters of removal of the kingdom’s ban on females’ driving and its high-handed male guardianship laws.
She was arrested that year alongside at least a dozen other women activists surprisingly after the kingdom’s ambitious Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was reported to have canceled the ban and relaxed the guardianship system.
Al-Hathoul had first been detained in 2014 and held for more than 70 days in custody after attempting to drive from the neighboring United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia.
According to her family and rights groups, Loujain and two other of the female activists faced solitary confinement as well as sexual harassment and torture during interrogation.
Saudi officials have denied torture allegations and said the arrests were made on suspicion of “harming Saudi interests and offering support to hostile elements abroad.”
Bin Salman has been trying to project himself as the champion of reformation in the kingdom. His 2017-present tenure as the country’s heir to the throne has, however, witnessed sweeping arrest campaigns, including against activists, dissidents, and clerics.
In 2018, the crown prince’s incumbency witnessed its yet most gruesome Saudi-linked atrocity that featured assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
Turkish officials say Khashoggi’s body was dismembered upon his assassination and his remains are yet to be found. In the aftermath of the killing, a CIA report said that the Saudi crown prince had ordered the assassination of the journalist, who was an outspoken critic of bin Salman.