The sister of a jailed Saudi activist has criticized this week’s G-20 Women’s Summit in Riyadh as a frustrating attempt to whitewash the country’s uncomfortable record on women’s rights.
Luzain al-Hathlal has been in prison for more than two years without trial to end Saudi Arabia’s ban on running women and the male guardianship system, which effectively restores women to second-class status, which requires permission. Male relatives for many life decisions.
Coordinator of the W-20 Summit, which opens on Wednesday Invited participants “To imagine a world where women’s equality is a reality”, however, Hatlal and other activists were deprived of their freedom because they fought for this dream inside Saudi Arabia, her sister Lina told the Guardian.
“[Summit attendees] Give legitimacy to a government that silences all voices related to human rights, including the voice of women, “said Lina Al-Hathall.” Women workers are behind bars, and the government charges they face are for their activism. “
“If women don’t talk about what’s going on in Saudi Arabia, things won’t change.”
Saudi Arabia is hosting the G20 Leaders’ Summit in November and the Women’s Conference – which is hosted by speakers from the United Nations and international organizations, including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development – as part of a joint event.
But high-profile international rallies have proved to be a powerhouse in favor of debating the country’s record on human rights.
The mayors of major cities, including London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris, boycotted the Urban 20 Summit last month in protest of the plight of Saudi Arabia’s political prisoners.
Saudi Arabia’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely regarded as the country’s real ruler, has presented himself as a reformist modernist.
In recent years, he has broken restrictions on daily life, allowed women to drive, reduced the power of religious police to inspect women’s clothing and mix sexes, and allowed movies to open after decades of bans.
Yet critics say the reforms represent a major surface change in the way of life in a country that is one of the few prominent absolute monarchies in the world, where demands for full allegiance to the royal family still remain.
In recent years, Saudi authorities have tried to silence critics at home and around the world. The most infamous, expatriate journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, was assassinated in 2018 by government officials at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Just before the lifting of the ban on female drivers, Hatlal was arrested and released several times for his campaign before a massive crackdown on women’s rights activists in May 2018.
“The only thing that has changed [in recent years] The image of Saudi Arabia in the west, “said Lina al-Hathlal. “There is no room for reform at all. All the reformers are behind bars and one of the things my sister Saudi Arabia wants is to whitewash all rights violations. “
The summit and its tagline – “If it doesn’t happen now, when” – were attacked by other human rights activists as a practice of hypocrisy.
Grant Liberty, a new human rights group that specializes in civil liberties in Saudi Arabia, has described the W20 as “ridiculous and offensive” and warned that it risks turning the G20 into a tool of the people for the brutal rule of Mohammed bin Salman. Boycott.
Human Rights Watch also called on women attending the W-20 conference to speak out on behalf of incarcerated preachers in prisons, saying that women leaders “kept quiet about reform” while in prison.
“The use of women’s rights to draw attention to other serious abuses by the Saudi government is well-proven. The recent changes, including the right to drive and travel without the permission of a male guardian, may be significant, but some women who have promoted these changes still want to be humble behind bars, ”the group said.
Hathaway was charged with destabilizing national security and working with foreign entities against the state, but two and a half years after his arrest, he is still awaiting trial.
Her family says she has been tortured in prison, electric shocks, floggings, long solitary confinement and sexual harassment.
Earlier this year, she went on a hunger strike to campaign against the ban on family visits and phone calls. Lina says she agreed to eat and was allowed to see her parents in late August after her thin but strong promise.
“It’s crazy and stubborn. After two and a half years, he doesn’t give up. He wants real justice. [from authorities] Over. ”
Even then, the family could not get in touch with Luzine and Lina said she was not sure if her sister was aware of the W-20 summit.
“I’m sure he’s connected to the world, so I can’t comment on what I know,” he added, adding that the long silence is very worrying for the family. “It’s always very stressful for us when he doesn’t call, our only experience [of communications being cut] Only when he is being tortured or on hunger strike. ”