Loujain al-Hathloul, a Saudi activist who fought to bring the women of her country the right to drive, has been sentenced to five years and eight months in prison. The sentence was handed down by a special terrorism court and the charges are related to her activist efforts.
According to Sabq, prosecutors were seeking a 20-year sentence. Al-Hathloul was charged with using the internet to promote an external agenda in the Saudi Kingdom, contacting foreign agents, and seeking to change the basic system of governance in Saudi Arabia.
Ironically, her efforts, along with those of other activists, succeeded in achieving that change. Just a month after she and 10 other women’s rights activists were arrested in 2018, Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women driving.
Al-Hathloul has been in custody since her arrest in 2018. Although that time will be counted against her sentence, her family has alleged that she has been subjected to torture and inhumane conditions while in prison. Following her release, she faces three years of probation and a five-year travel ban.
Her activism started in 2013 and included posting videos with her hair and face uncovered and driving from the airport in Riyadh to her home. She was also arrested and held for 73 days in 2014 for attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the United Arab Emirates.
Unfortunately, although it is now legal for women to drive in the country, it is still difficult. According to Gulf News, a UAE outlet, there are few driving schools for women in Saudi Arabia and women are charged more than twice as much as men for lessons.
According to the Saudi government, 70,000 women hold a license in the country, which has a population of 34 million.