After gaining fame for getting arrested in 2014 for driving in Saudi Arabia, human rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul has once again been taken into custody on June 4.
There is some concern that her arrest is influenced by an extremist Islamic government harassing her due to her renown and public work for women.
“The Saudi Arabian authorities’ continuous harassment of Loujain al-Hathloul is absurd and unjustifiable,” Samah Hadid, director of campaigns for Amnesty International in the Middle East, told Amnesty International. “It appears she is being targeted once again because of her peaceful work as a human rights defender speaking out for women’s rights, which are consistently trammeled in the kingdom. If so, she must be immediately and unconditionally released.”
al-Hathloul is not allowed to contact family or her lawyer, according to Amnesty International.
Besides driving illegally, she was the first Saudi Arabian women to vote in November of 2015, although her vote wasn’t counted.
“Instead of upholding its promise of a more tolerant Saudi Arabia, the government has again shattered any notion that it is genuinely committed to upholding equality and human rights,” Hadid said.
Interestingly, other Islamic nations are not this strict with women, according to The Atlantic. Saudi Arabia is the only nation that has restrictions placed on driving, and it may have to do with their branch of Islam.
Known as Wahhabism, this is a socially rigid branch of Sunni Islam that requires strict gender separation, according to The Atlantic.
After protests for women’s rights occurring in the 1990s, the government became stricter about reinforcing traditional gender roles, according to The Atlantic. This is where the driving ban originated.
“The incident catalyzed a moral campaign meant to reinforce the feminine ideal of a pious secluded wife and mother,” Jaime Kucinskas, a religion and society instructor at Indiana University, told The Atlantic. “The state-funded media released a television program showing little girls singing how they were women and did not drive cars.”