The release of a prominent female activist this week is the latest gesture from Saudi Arabia, which sided with the Biden administration. Will it work

Under intense US and international pressure, Saudi Arabia has released from prison Lujain al-Hathlol, who led the charge to drive women into the kingdom. But far more is at stake than the fate of the country’s most prominent feminist activists, or other female and male activists who are not well-known and still in Saudi prisons.

Al-Hathloul’s conditional release came after he was sentenced to 1,001 days in prison on Wednesday and alleged that he was tortured which is the latest in a series of gestures by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of the state of Washington. In the wake of the election of President Joe Biden to end a badly strained relationship with.

Under President Trump, Riyadh may seem wrong. However, since his election victory, President Biden has been implementing a tougher, more skeptical stance for the state.

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During the campaign, candidate Biden criticized the state’s continued search for its disastrous war in Yemen, the killing and 2018 of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and its suppression of political dissidents at home and abroad. Biden specifically referred to the case of al-Hathlaul by name. Among his strongest critics, he accused Prince Salman of ordering the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi (which Prince Prince has denied) and vowed to make Saudi rulers “pariah that they are”.

Since assuming office, the administration has suspended US arms sales pending a review of relations with the state, and asked Prince Salman to be more concerned about his foreign and domestic policies, calm and public To apply pressure. While some experts in the Middle East predict a breakdown in America’s long-standing and significant relationship with the autocratic Saudi monarchy, the world’s largest oil exporter, they expect a rocky road in weeks and months as Washington and Riyadh The lines test each other’s political flexibility and diplomatic red.

This photo, taken in Saudi Arabia's capital Riyadh on February 10, 2021, shows a woman looking at Leena's tweet by the sister of Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathlaul, of whom Hathloo after being detained for nearly three years. A screenshot of her was shown after the release of.  (Photo by Fez Neureldin / AFP) (Photo via Geta Image by Feetz Neureldin / AFP)

This photo, taken in Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh on February 10, 2021, shows a woman looking at a tweet posted by the sister of Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathlol, about three years in custody After the release of Hathrol, a screenshot of him was shown. (Photo by Fez Nureldin / AFP)
(Getty Images)

In his remarks at the Pentagon on Wednesday, Biden sharply praised the state for al-Hathlul’s release, calling it “the right doer”.

Al-Hathloul’s arrest and alleged misconduct in prison have sparked outrage among human rights activists and the international community in particular.

She rose to prominence in 2013 when she began publicly demanding women’s rights in the state, she was first arrested a year later when she tried to cross the border from the United Arab Emirates among all allies in the state.

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In 2016, she was one of the first women to run for municipal elections in the state and was among the 14,000 Saudis who petitioned the king to abolish the patronage system, which included women traveling, education, work and other Important tasks require male approval. the option.

In 2018, he was arrested in the UAE, according to human rights groups, and forcibly taken to Riyadh, where he was placed under house arrest before being taken to prison.

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While the families of most prisoners and dissidents have remained silent about their treatment, al-Hathloul has not. She She told relatives that she and other women were tortured in prison, an allegation the state denies but is widely believed by human rights groups.

Under pressure from the government, her relatives said, she and her husband divorced. Last December, he was sentenced to nearly six years in prison by the so-called Special Criminal Court in Riyadh under the state’s anti-terrorism laws. UN human rights experts called the allegations “spontaneous”.

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This week, the court suspended two years and 10 months of her sentence, much of which she had already served.

On Twitter, her sister, Lina Hathal, who campaigned for her release, saw a photo of her showing a white streak in her thin and pale, long, dark hair, but released after 1,001 days in prison. Was happy to be. “Lozen is at home, but she is not free,” Leena tweeted, noting that she is subject to a five-year travel ban and will be placed on probation, effectively designed to silence her .

Prince Mohammed was initially praised within and outside the state for bold reforms aimed at diversifying within the country and in his economy, but that image was shattered by Khashogi’s assassination, by many reckless acts.


A Saudi court ultimately jailed eight people involved in the murder for seven and 20 years. While Saudi officials initially denied that the crown prince had played a role, he accepted some personal responsibility in September 2019. “It happened under my watch,” he told an American journalist.

Nevertheless, Saudi experts say he has continued to change the state since he became successor in 2017. He Has been outlined and a new “vision 2030” pursuit for their isolated, reactionary empire with less dependence on oil, more employment for young Saudis, and more cultural and to some extent legal freedom.

He The ban on women driving was also abolished, as they arrested women who campaigned for it. But throughout his tenure, he repeatedly indicated that only government-sanctioned activism would be tolerated and ruthlessly tortured those who allegedly threatened him – they are business executives whom he called Ritz’s Ritz – Imprisoned at the Carlton Hotel and made false threats. On his throne is Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who is under house arrest, among him, former superiors and American officials.

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Under President Trump, Saudi Arabia was the preferred location. Despite leading the effort to block neighboring Qatar, where the US has a large military base, detained and forced the resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister, who was later released and reinstated , And pursued the war to gain control of the country from the war in Yemen. Iran-backed Houthi rebels, Trump repeatedly stated that the US needed ties to Riyadh due to hostility to Iran, US arms purchases and other commercial ties. Trump’s first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia.

Since Biden’s electoral victory, Prince Salman has been following a double-track policy aimed at appeasing the new administration while following his policies at home. Five women activists were released from jail before the election.

Saudi Arabia has also taken steps to end the boycott of neighboring Qatar. According to the Ministry of the Interior, domestically, the state has decreased dramatically in 2020, where the number of citizens has fallen from 184 in 2019 to just 15 people, which was only 15 people between last January and November.

Saudi experts predict that eventually, Washington and Riyadh will make sense and ease initial tensions. “It is hard to imagine that President Biden would be able to end the war in Yemen, a top priority for him, or to bring Iran back into the framework of the nuclear deal, without Saudi approval or support within the region. Another important goal Is, “said an experienced diplomat who spoke on the background. “The fact is: Riyadh and Washington need each other.”

Saudi Arabia clearly needs the US.

Its economy is affected by low oil prices and with pandemics, dismal trade and commerce, Prince Mohammed is also afraid of foreign Washington.

The diplomat said, “They will find a modern Vivendi.” “They always have. They always will.”

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