Call for countries like Australia to boycott Saudi Arabia’s G20 summit over imprisonment of female political prisoners

A self-portrait of Loujain Houthlou, who is smiling while driving and wearing sunglasses and a head scarf.

Major economic powers around the world, including Australia and the United Kingdom, have been called upon to boycott this weekend’s G20 summit over the imprisonment of female political activists campaigning for the right to drive.

The G20 summit is almost certain to take place due to Govt-19, but Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will be on the world stage.

QC and Baroness Helena Kennedy, who defends human and women’s rights, described it as “slander” that the Kingdom and its Crown Prince would host one of the world’s most important economic forums.

She wants world leaders to use the summit as a critique of change, and calls for the release in 2018 of a group of at least 13 female activists imprisoned by the royal prince, just months before women were granted the right to drive.

“This time we should not offer this kind of site to Saudi Arabia. If they want to show that they are really in the process of change, it is time for them to show it,” he told ABC.

Baroness Kennedy was part of a group led by the United Nations Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoki was brutally murdered.

Baroness Helena Kennedy was harshly critical of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.(Provided)

He was one of the few people who listened to graphic tapes of those moments before Mr Kashogi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

“I was accompanied by a senior forensic pathologist and a former police investigator. It was very shocking to hear those tapes and it made the evidence private,” Baroness Kennedy told ABC.

“We do not have a country under the rule of law. It is important to us.”

Press for the release of imprisoned female activists

Until June 2018, Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world where women are banned from driving Cars.

A few months before the ban was lifted, a Saudi royal court ordered a group of female activists behind a Women’s 2 drive campaign not to speak to the media.

They were later arrested.

Among them was Lujain al-Hadlou, a prominent figure in the campaign to win the right of women to drive, and he He spent time in jail for driving his car Crossing the border from Abu Dhabi to Saudi Arabia in 2014.

A woman and a man pose in front of a car for a selfie.
In a car with her husband Fahad al-Bhutto in Lujain al-Hadlou.(Instagram: jlojainhathloul)

Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council warned of the deteriorating health of a 31-year-old man on hunger strike, urging Saudis to release him immediately.

“We can complain about it, we can raise it in international meetings, but you have no ability,” Baroness Kennedy said.

“Foreign exchange is here because Saudi wants to host it. It has to be seen as an important player in the world. If you want to be a player in the world, you have to start respecting the humanity of women and men.”

In September, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, along with the mayors of New York, Los Angeles and Paris, boycotted the Urban 20 Mayor Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia due to the G20 chairmanship.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UK, Prince Khalid bin Bandar, noted that women would be granted mercy before the start of the summit this weekend, although he later withdrew his comments and said the crown prince was not obligated.

‘This is not normal life’

Safa al-Ahmad, a Saudi Arabian journalist and documentary filmmaker, said the release of women did not mean they were free.

“My concern is that they are calling for the release of these women, the same thing has happened to the women who have been temporarily released before, they are temporarily releasing them, but they are still oppressed.

A woman with dark hair is standing in a park.
Safa al-Ahmad says he will be imprisoned if he tries to return to Saudi Arabia.(ABC News: Charles Britain)

“They also do not accept that they have the right to call for reforms in Saudi Arabia.”

He also wants world leaders to use the conference as a foreign currency to demand the release of female and male political prisoners.

“They need to send a clear message that the G20 will not be used to tarnish Saudi Arabia’s reputation,” he said.

Al-Ahmad said that if he returned to the kingdom, he would be imprisoned with “better conditions” like al-Hadlul.

He has been indicted by the Kingdom for a number of crimes since he produced the documentary The Secret Rise of Saudi Arabia, which aired on the BBC in 2015.

Al-Ahmad is currently the executive director of ALQST, a group that documents human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

She believes al-Hadloul is a symbolically powerful person for all Saudi women.

“Even in prison he refuses to produce a video saying he was not tortured. The government is trying to force itself, which is surprising,” he said, refusing to say.

“I think it scares the government more than anything. They can’t silence these women, so they are very dangerous.”

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Alfred Lee covers public and private tech markets from New York. He was previously a Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economics and Business Journalism at Columbia University, and prior to that was a reporter at the Los Angeles Business Journal. He has received a Journalist of the Year award from the L.A. Press Club and an investigative reporting award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.

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