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Activists Call For Saudi Dakar Rally Boycott As Women’s Rights To Drive Activist Still In Prison

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Supporters of activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who fought for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia have called out the Saudi Dakar Rally being organised in the country. They asked for people to boycott the motorsport event and said that the rally is an attempt of “sportswashing” Saudi Arabia’s reputation. Loujain al-Hathloul is still in prison. 

The Dakar Rally is comprised is an off-road bike racing competition in which 12 women are going to pass through Al-Ha’ir prison on Tuesday where Hathloul is serving time.  

Lucy Rae, spokesperson of Grant Liberty, a human rights advocacy organisation fights for Saudi Arabia’s prisoners called out the Rally as many women who have campaigned for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia are facing “psychological and physical torture” in prison to this day.  

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She called the bike rally “utterly grotesque” as it includes women riders and the ones who fought for the same right are being punished with a jail term.

Hathloul, an activist who has campaigned for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia was sentenced last month to a jail term of five years and eight months. Earlier, she was kidnapped and detained in 2018. The court found her guilty of spying and conspiring against the nation. Read more about her here.  

Since the court has now shortened Hathloul’s sentence, she only has two months to serve in prison. Her supporters, however, condemned as according to them Hathloul was kept in custody for three without any charges.  Hathloul’s parents have also claimed that their daughter was subjected to physical and sexual assault, the authorities have denied these allegations. 

While many claim that the activist was detained because she was campaigning for women’s right to drive, the authorities have repeatedly said it was not because of that reason. Rather they accused her of conspiring against the royal family. 

Hathloul’s sister, Lina al-Hathloul said that the women’s bike rally is to ‘whitewash’ the nation’s crimes. “ No-one should be fooled by the Saudi regime’s attempts at sportswashing”. 

She added, “ Saudi Arabia needs real reform, real human rights, not this charade.”

Mayaa al-Zahrani, Nouf Abdulaziz al-Jeraiwi and Samar Badawi are the three other activists who campaigned for women’s right to drive in Saudi Arabia and they all are in prison. 

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