Prominent Saudi Arabian women’s activist’s family says she is being tortured after arrest
According to CNN, women’s rights activists Laujain Alhathloul and up to ten other women in Saudi Arabia have been tortured, sexually assaulted or otherwise abused during interrogation sessions that have been said to include Saud al-Qahtani, a former advisor of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. Alhathloul’s brother, Walid, recently wrote an opinion piece for CNN which claims that his sister told their parents that she had been regularly beaten, electrocuted and sexually harassed in a basement she referred to as the “palace of terror.”
Other Saudi activists, as well as Human Rights Watch, have also maintained over the past few months that Alhathloul and other female detainees have been subject to beatings and sexual harassment while they have been imprisoned. Al-Qahtani’s involvement is significant because he is also one of the men implicated by the investigation into the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Al-Qahtani was removed from his post as communications chief of the royal court only after he was blamed for the murder of Khashoggi along with several other high ranking Saudi officials.
According to Walid Alhathloul, “Whenever Loujain spoke about the torture sessions to my parents, her hands shook uncontrollably. I fear the pain will stay with her forever… She said that sometimes there are masked men who wake her up in the middle of the night to shout unimaginable threats.” Althathloul calls for singer Mariah Carey, who is slated to perform in Saudi Arabia for King Abdullah, to advocate for his sister’s release from the stage. Other activists have also attempted to pressure Carey into declining the invitation from the Saudi Arabian royals, like Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahawy:
Dear @MariahCarey, I hear you’re planning on performing in #Saudi Arabia: are you aware that women’s rights activists have been detained without charge since May 2018 & tortured at the orders of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman? https://t.co/NqbRBlYpR4
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) January 26, 2019
In addition to Alhathloul, the Saudi government is also detaining Aziza al-Yousef, Eman al-Nafjan, Nouf Abdelaziz, Samar Badawi, and Hatoon al Fassi. Saudi’s Press Agency says that the women are being accused of “suspicious contact with foreign entities,” and the country is denying any charges of torture per a statement issued to CNN in November after a report from Human Rights Watch alleging the abuse of the women.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s judiciary system does not condone, promote, or allow the use of torture,” the statement reads. “Anyone, whether male or female, being investigated is going through the standard judiciary process led by the public prosecution while being held for questioning, which does not in any way rely on torture either physical, sexual or psychological.”