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UN raises alarm over Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul's health following hunger strike

The Saudi activist launched a hunger strike last month to protest against restrictions on contacting her family
UN experts have raised concerns about Loujain's health after launching her second hunger strike(AFP)

UN experts have raised concerns over the deteriorating health of jailed Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul, following the start of her hunger strike. 

In a statement, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) said that Hathloul’s health was deteriorating and called for her immediate release. 

The committee, which is made up of 23 women’s rights experts from around the world, has also appealed to King Salman to ensure Loujain’s release. 

“We, the committee experts, are gravely concerned about Ms Al-Hathloul’s physical and mental health and well-being particularly in light of her hunger strike. We urge the Saudi authorities to protect her rights to life, health, liberty and security of person at all times, while fully respecting her freedoms of conscience and expression, including by going on hunger strike.

"The Committee appeals to his Majesty King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud to use his royal prerogative powers to ensure the release of Ms Loujain Al-Hathloul from detention, which has been unduly prolonged.”  

Hathloul, 31, rose to prominence campaigning for women's right to drive and against the kingdom's laws on male guardianship.

She was arrested in the United Arab Emirates and deported to Saudi Arabia in May 2018 at a time that Riyadh was granting the rights to women for which she had campaigned.

Hathloul started a hunger strike on 26 October to protest against her prolonged detention and the authorities' decision to prevent her from contacting family members. 

According to the CEDAW statement, Saudi Arabia had assured the UN committee in February that Hathloul’s trial would take place in March. However, the hearing has been postponed on numerous occasions since then. 

Her sisters, Lina and Alia, broke the news of the renewed hunger strike on Twitter, where they said that Lujain was exhausted from being mistreated and deprived of hearing her family’s voices.

Lina has continued to tweet about her sister's plight, as she enters her 11th day of hunger strike. 

#FreeLoujain campaign

Online, many have continued to use the hashtag #FreeLoujain and #LoujainHungerStrike to raise awareness about her detention and deteriorating health. 

A petition launched last month by activists has garnered over 2,800 signatures, calling for her release.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that Saudi authorities were severing contact between some of the kingdom’s most well-known detainees and their families during the coronavirus pandemic.

Typically, detainees were able to make frequent, sometimes weekly, calls to their family. However, according to the report, many of those imprisoned activists have not contacted their families in months.