Loujain al-Hathloul: Timeline Of The Saudi Feminist Political Prisoner’s Prosecution

Louijan Alhathloul
Loujain al-Hathloul: Loujain al-Hathloul, Saudi Arabia’s women’s rights activist was released on Wednesday after three years of serving jail term.

According to reports, US President Joe Biden had a role to play in her release. However, Hathloul will stay on probation for some and she will not be allowed to travel outside of Saudi Arabia for the next five years.

Earlier in the trial of Saudi women rights’ activist Loujain al-Hathloul, the state prosecutor is seeking the maximum possible jail sentence of 20 years. With her trials going on in the ‘terrorism court’, the judge adjourned the hearing on December 16.

Furthermore, the families of prominent women imprisoned by Saudi Arabia were calling on President-elect Joe Biden to make a promise to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman accountable for human rights violations.

Loujain al-Hathloul’s trial began two years after her imprisonment. Loujain is one of the most prominent campaigners in Saudi Arabia. She is a political dissenter and women’s rights activist who has strongly opposed the male-guardianship system.

Loujain al-Hathloul was detained multiple times in the past for defying the ban of women driving.

Under the kingdom’s male guardianship system, every woman must have a male guardian. Traditionally, a woman’s male guardian from birth is her father and once she is married, her guardian becomes her husband. In other cases, a brother or even her son may serve as her male guardian. The guardian has the authority to make a number of critical decisions on her behalf. All women in Saudi Arabia are subject to this practice which relegates them to the status of second class citizens. Although many of the rules have begun to loosen, there is still a long way to go.

Here is the timeline of Loujain al-Hathloul’s activism, followed by her prosecution by the Kingdom:


On December 1,  Loujain al-Hathloul was arrested and detained for 73 days on charges related to defying the female driving ban. She attempted to cross the border in her car from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia  in the kingdom. Although she had a UAE license, the Saudi police still arrested her.


Loujain al-Hathloul attempted to stand in Saudi local elections in December, but she was barred. This was the year when women voted and were allowed to stand as candidates in municipal elections. However, al-Hathloul wasn’t allowed to take part. Furthermore, the vote turnout was very low, i.e. 10 percent.

Al-Hathloul was ranked third in the list of “Top 100 Most Powerful Arab Women 2015”.


In September, al-Hathloul signed a petition along with 14,000 others to King Salman asking for the abolition of male guardianship practice.


On June 4, Loujain was arrested and detained at King Fahad International Airport, Dammam. The reason for the arrest was not officially disclosed, although Amnesty International believed it was for her dissent and political activism. Moreover, she was not allowed access to a lawyer or contact her family during her detention.


Loujain Al-Hathloul was kidnapped from UAE in March and deported to Saudi Arabia where she was detained for a few days, and then put under a travel ban.

On March 15, Al-Hathloul was detained again along with Eman al-Nafjan, Aisha al-Mana, Aziza al-Yousef, Madeha al-Ajroush and some men involved in campaigning for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia.

In June, women were granted the right to drive in Saudi Arabia, while al-Hathloul remained under arrest. She has been in prison since then. Her family and humans rights organisations raised concerns over her well-being, as she was allegedly subjected to maltreatment and torture.

In October, her husband, Saudi stand-up comedian Fahad al-Butairi, had also been forcefully returned from Jordan to the Kingdom and was under arrest.


On March 1, the office of Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor announced that the preliminary investigation had been completed. Furthermore, they would prepare to try al-Hathloul and other activists in court for undermining state security.

Her trials were postponed without any justifiable reasons in that year.

Al-Hathloul was named one of Time magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People of 2019’.


Her trial was postponed indefinitely in the first half of the year due to the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.

On August 11, Lina al-Hathloul, the sister of Loujain al-Hathloul, expressed fear about the possibility of the activist being tortured again in the Saudi prison. As she has not been heard from for over 60 days. She was held in incommunicado detention for three months. When she came to know that other detainees were allowed to call their family, she went on a 6-day hunger strike to demand the same. She was then allowed to meet her parents.

In the span of September-November, many countries, organisations, human rights activists and public raised their voices against this unlawful imprisonment and called for her release.

On November 25, she was transferred to a special court for terrorism and national security crimes. Her sister, Lina al-Hathloul, feared that Loujain was being pressured into giving false confessions, which could be used against her.

On December 10, her closed trials began in the ‘terrorism court’. As of Dec 16th, there is a possibility of sentencing her to 20 years behind the bars. The next hearing is on Monday.

Also Read: Vogue Arabia Features Saudi Princess Driving, Sparks Outrage

Sugandha Bora is an intern with SheThePeople.