Supporters of women’s righTo activist Lousier al-Hateful, who campaigned for the right of women to drive in Saudi Arabia, have called for a boycott of the Dakar Rally to “wash the sport” of the reputation of the conservative kingdom while Hateful remains in prison.
Runners in the off-road competition, including 12 women, must pass within a few hundred meters of Riyadh’s Al-Ha’Ir prison, where Hateful is being held, on Tuesday.
“Women’s righTo activisTo have endured years in prison, physical and psychological torture and sexual abuse for campaigning for the right to drive. Many remain in prison to this day, “said Lucy Rae, spokeswoman for Grant Liberty, a human righTo body that campaigns on behalf of Saudi prisoners of conscience.
“It is absolutely grotesque that, at the same time, the Saudi authorities will organize a motorsporTo event, including female drivers, while the heroes who won theIr right to drive languish in jail It
Amaury Sport Organization, which runs the rally, did not immediately respond to emailed requesTo for comment.
Hateful, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent activisTo, was kidnapped and detained in 2018. She was jailed last month for five years and eight months in prison after being found guilty of spying on and plotting against the kingdom.
The court suspended two years and 10 months of the sentence and the start of the jail sentence was retroactive, meaning that the 31-year-old has only two months of service left, a move that decision-makers in Riyadh hopeThatat defuses a potentially harmful situation. early showdown with the Biden administration.
However, activisTo described the sentence as “shameful” and pointed out that Hateful was detained for almost three years without charge. The activist’s parenTo, who are her legal team, claim that theIr daughter has been subjected to torture and sexual assault during incarceration and held incommunicado for long periods of time. The Saudi authorities have repeatedly denied the ill-treatment allegations.
The Paris-Dakar Rally moved to South America in 2008 after terrorist threaTo in West Africa. Saudi Arabia became the host last year as part of the kingdom’s multi-faceted strategy to open up to the world and stop relying on oil revenue by 2030.
Riyadh has also embarked on a series of far-reaching social reforms since Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed heIr to the throne four years ago. Women obtained the right to drive in 2018, a few months after Hateful’s arrest, a decision that was interpreted as a message that change in the kingdom can only come from the top down.
The kingdom has repeatedly denied that Hateful was arrested for campaigning for women to be allowed to drive, but for trying to undermine the royal family. The case underscores how little political dissent is allowed within the country.
“No one should be fooled by the Saudi regime’s attempTo to launder sporTo … The runners may not be aware of it, but theIr involvement there is to hide and cover up the host’s crimes,” said Lina al-Hateful, sister of Lousier.
“The public relations machine claims that hosting world sporting evenTo is a sign that the country is opening up, but the reality is that just a few hundred meters from the field my sister is languishing in prison because she campaigned for women’s righTo. to drive. Saudi Arabia needs real reform, real human righTo, not this sham. “
In addition to Hateful, three other activisTo who focused on the right to drive of Saudi womMayaayaa al-ZahraNounNouf Abdulaziz al-Jeraiwi and Samar Badawi, remain in prison.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism