‘Moving mountains’: How Pakistan’s ‘invisible’ women won workers’ rights | Employment

Shamim Bano has been an invisible worker for 40 years. Working 12-hour days from home as a “cropper” in the port city of Karachi, she cuts the loose threads off clothing and makes samosas to sell at schools.

Bano is paid about 25 Pakistani rupees (£0.10) a day. It’s a precarious existence for Pakistan’s home-based workers, without access to social security benefits or pensions. Most of these informal workers are women.

But now Bano has become visible – as the first person to register under new legislation that will finally recognise her work. Sindh province is about to enact a law to award employment rights to an estimated informal workforce of 3 million people.

In 2018 Sindh passed the Home-Based Workers Act, making Pakistan the only country in south Asia where home workers were recognised as official labourers. Although the country’s three other provinces have not yet followed suit, it is believed that 12 million people across Pakistan are home-based workers, making clothes, shoes and crafts from their living rooms.

About 80% of them are women. Their contribution to the economy is sizeable – the informal sector accounts for 71% of employment in Pakistan outside agriculture, according to the Labour Force Survey for 2017–18. In rural areas 75% of people are classed as informal workers.

At the dilapidated one-room office of the United Home-Based Garment Workers’ Union in Karachi last week, Bano became the first woman working from home in Sindh to register with the provincial government’s labour department. She will now be eligible for social, medical and maternity benefits, and will also qualify for government grants to help pay for weddings and funerals.

“I don’t know when I will actually be able to enjoy the gains, but I am satisfied I was in the forefront of the struggle, says Bano, who lives with her husband, two daughters, son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. “To even get to this point, and that I was able to help so many other women, including my daughters have a future, that is better than … [getting this myself].”

Shamim Bano was the first person to register under new laws that recognise her work from home in Sindh province.
Shamim Bano was the first person to register under new laws that recognise her work from home in Sindh province. Photograph: Zofeen Ebrahim

It’s been a long journey to get to this point. The Home-Based Women Workers Federation (HBWWF), has been fighting for its 3,500 members to be able to claim social security benefits and receive a living wage since 2009.

Zehra Khan, the federation’s general secretary, said the “historic” registration proved that “when scattered workers, especially women, organise themselves, they can move mountains and fight against capitalist greed”.

Khan added that the registration process would also give a true picture of the number of home-based workers.

As she filled in her registration form, Saira Feroze, 36, the general secretary of a union that belongs to the federation, said she had never thought “we would be recognised as workers in our lifetime”, and that this had seemed “like a distant dream”.

The registration process was

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Venture Capitalist, Mum Of Three & Advocate Of Women’s Rights

Diversity in the venture capital industry has been a widely discussed topic in 2020 as many reports came out showing the industry fell short in hiring both women and ethnic minorities. To activate the change needed it is imperative that the composition of the people working in the industry changes so that they can empathize with and understand the issues underrepresented entrepreneurs go through which should, in the long run, lead to a broader deal flow and more opportunities. One venture capitalist who has been on both sides of the table for many years trying to activate such change is June Angelides MBE. 

Early Beginnings 

Angelides was raised in Lagos, Nigeria where she had an early introduction to entrepreneurship through her family. Her uncle Ben Murray Bruce founded Silverbird which was the first cinema in Nigeria and she recalls admiring “his ability to come up with an idea and make it happen” from her time spent with him on the construction sites. Whilst life in Nigeria was fantastic she moved to London at 17 to start her A levels at St Michaels Grammar School. Upon arriving in London she immediately noticed the obvious cultural differences “it was the first time I noticed my race and heard the term BAME” she says. After doing well in school and spending a gap year working at Barclays she attended University College London where she studied Economics. Towards the end of her degree, many of her peers were applying for jobs at investment banks and consulting firms but Angelides was very cognizant of the fact she did not want to work in the type of aggressive work culture she had heard about. Through a friend, she was connected to the media conglomerate Reuters where she landed a role on the syndicated loans news desk doing analytics and league table write ups for reporters. 

Going Into Tech

In 2010, after a few years at Reuters Angelides was contacted by a recruiter about a role at Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). Despite their reputation in the U.S. at this time SVB was a relatively unknown entity in the U.K. and applying for their banking license. Angelides decided to take the interview and to her surprise, the culture seemed very different from the banking culture she had previously been put off by. She recalls in her interview being told they wanted “happy people” and she was convinced it was the right opportunity for her. SVB proved to be a great introduction to entrepreneurship. Not only did she get to build relationships with some of London’s most successful startups today she was in a startup environment herself and watched SVB grow from a small team to one of London’s leading banks for startups.

A few years later Angelides had her first child and to work more flexible hours she decided to move into the early-stage banking team working with

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Saudi Arabia urged to release women’s rights activists by European envoys

Seven European human rights ambassadors criticized Saudi Arabia on Sunday over the continued detention of at least five women’s rights activists, including Loujain al-Hathloul, whose case has been referred to a special court for terrorism offenses. 



Loujain Alhathloul posing for a photo: Loujain al-Hathloul, right, is pictured with her sister Lina al-Hathloul around five months before her arrest in May 2018.


© Courtesy of Lina al-Hathloul
Loujain al-Hathloul, right, is pictured with her sister Lina al-Hathloul around five months before her arrest in May 2018.

Hathloul appeared in a Saudi court on Wednesday, as her trial was scheduled to start after 900 days in pre-trial detention.

The court instead referred the case to the Specialized Criminal Court for terrorism and national security cases, according to a statement from her family and supporters, sent to CNN.

The case of another women’s rights activist, Samar Badawi, has also been referred to the special court. Three others — Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz and Maya’a al-Zahrani — remain in detention, according to human rights group Amnesty International. 

“We remain deeply concerned by the continued detention of at least five women’s right activists in Saudi Arabia. We regret that the cases of Loujain Al-Hathloul and Samar Badawi have now been referred to the Special Criminal Court for terrorism and national security cases,” human rights ambassadors for the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Estonia, Luxembourg and Finland said in a statement.

Hathloul, 31, was jailed in May 2018 during a sweep that targeted prominent opponents of the kingdom’s former law barring women from driving. The crackdown happened just weeks before the ban was lifted, casting doubt on a reform agenda put forward by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The court she appeared in on Wednesday said it would investigate Hathloul’s allegations of torture in prison, according to the family’s statement. Saudi authorities have repeatedly denied allegations of torture and sexual abuse in their prisons. A new trial date hasn’t been announced yet.   

Badawi had also campaigned against the driving ban and against the imprisonment of her former husband, rights lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, as well as her brother, blogger Raif Badawi. 

“Peaceful activism, and advocating for women’s rights is not a crime. Human rights defenders can be a strong partner for governments in addressing concerns within society,” the ambassadors said.

“We join the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Rapporteurs and Treaty Bodies in reiterating our call for the release of all political detainees, including the women’s rights activists.”

CNN has reached out to the Saudi government for a response. 

In an interview with CNN’s Nic Robertson earlier this month, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Jubeir said Hathloul’s case “was up to the courts” and that “she’s on trial for matters related to national security.”

An Amnesty International representative for the Middle East, Lynn Maalouf, said the Specialized Criminal Court was “an institution used to silence dissent and notorious for issuing lengthy prison sentences following seriously flawed trials.”

“This is yet another sign that Saudi Arabia’s claims of reform on human rights are a farce,” Maalouf said. 

In a six-page charge sheet for Hathloul’s case, seen by

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How Fair Wear Is Working With Fashion Brands To Protect The Rights Of Garment Workers Around The World

Millions of garment workers around the world face poverty and human rights violations every day. Supply chains are very complicated, and there are still many places where things can go wrong. Most clothing brands don’t own their factories, but they do have a lot of influence over how factories treat workers.

Fair Wear is an independent multi-stakeholder organisation that works with garment brands, garment workers and industry influencers to improve labor conditions in garment factories.

In particular, Fair Wear works with some of the world’s leading fashion brands like Acne, Nudie, Katherine Hamnett, Filippa K and more, who take their responsibilities seriously, and want to learn how to use their influence to make life better for the people who make their clothing.

I caught up with Lotte Schuurman, Fair Wear’s Head of Communications to learn more about their work.

Afdhel Aziz: Hi Lotte, welcome! Please tell us a little about the purpose and work of Fair Wear?

Lotte Schuurman: At Fair Wear, we’re pushing to create a garment industry that is fair for all.

For a very long time already, we have been producing clothes the same way, like we always have. The consumer is underpaying, and the worker is underpaid. Due to the ‘race to the bottom’, margins are too low.

We know there’s a better way to make clothes. A way in which workers feel safe and respected and receive a salary that is enough to provide for their families. We’re pushing to make this the new normal.

Together with garment brands and other industry players, we work on better labour conditions for the men and women who make our clothes. We’re tackling complex problems, like payment of a living wage and ending gender-based violence, by uncovering new solutions and driving step-by-step improvements that create real change for the people who work in garment factories.

Aziz: Do you think Fast Fashion is having its Fast Food moment of crisis? Is there a discrepancy between what consumers say and what they do?

Schuurman: We’re still buying a lot of clothes, although the COVID-19 crisis is changing that. A Deloitte study (April 2019) found that American consumers are now spending a smaller portion of their income on clothing. The spending as a percentage of the total household expenses has been cut in half since 1987, declining from 5 percent to 2 percent. However, this does not necessarily imply a disinterest in clothing or fashion on the part of the consumer. In fact, there has been a continued increase in the number of units of apparel sold, consistent with the overall growth rate in retail. Clothing has become cheaper. And this is happening while low wages and poor working conditions still hit the news on a regular basis.

On the other hand, we also see more interest in sustainable fashion. Research (Jan. 2020) shows that consumers are looking for greater

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EU to use Magnitsky-style law to impose sanctions on human rights abusers

The EU will take on powers to freeze assets and impose travel bans on individuals involved in human rights abuses from next month, after the bloc’s member states provisionally approved a European Magnitsky Act.



Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters


© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters

The restrictive measures – set to be formally signed off on Human Rights Day on 10 December, marking the 77th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – would target those involved in crimes ranging from genocide and torture to arbitrary arrests or detentions.



a painting on the wall: Judges at the European Court of Human Rights. The measures are set to be formally signed off on Human Rights Day on 10 December.


© Photograph: Vincent Kessler/Reuters
Judges at the European Court of Human Rights. The measures are set to be formally signed off on Human Rights Day on 10 December.

A leaked copy of the decision obtained by the Guardian says the legal act “establishes a framework for targeted restrictive measures to address serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide”.

The EU does not currently have the right to enforce travel bans on individuals as the competence lies with national governments, and its other sanction powers are geographically targeted.

The Dutch government initiated a discussion on the EU developing its own version of the US Magnitsky Act last November following a resolution from its parliament in The Hague.

The original US act signed by Barack Obama in 2012 was designed to target Russian officials deemed responsible for the death of the Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky was a Moscow lawyer and tax auditor hired to investigate a case of corruption in which a group of interior ministry officials managed to obtain a $230m rebate from the Russian state by fraudulently taking over three companies belonging to Hermitage Capital, an asset management firm.

The officials he accused had him arrested and thrown in jail, where he was beaten by prison guards. He died in custody in 2009 at the age of 37 after being refused medical treatment or family visits.

The European parliament has repeatedly called for the EU to adopt legislation similar to that enacted in the US to allow the bloc to target individuals irrespective of their nationality.

The eight members of the Nordic Council – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland – had said they would adopt their own act if the EU failed to agree.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which border Russia, already have such legislation.

In 2018, a “Magnitsky amendment” to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act was passed by the UK parliament to give the government the power to impose sanctions on people who commit gross human rights violations.

In July, in the first use of the powers, the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, announced sanctions against 49 individuals and organisations, including 25 Russians ranging from government officials, prison doctors and Moscow’s top prosecutor, Alexander Bastrykin, a close ally of Putin.

The EU framework will not carry Magnitsky’s name following lobbying by the Dutch government, who argued that no specific state should feel targeted. Vladimir Putin had been so enraged by the US act

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EU to use Magnitsky-style law to impose sanctions on human rights abusers | European Union

The EU will take on powers to freeze assets and impose travel bans on individuals involved in human rights abuses from next month, after the bloc’s member states provisionally approved a European Magnitsky Act.

The restrictive measures – set to be formally signed off on Human Rights Day on 10 December, marking the 77th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – would target those involved in crimes ranging from genocide and torture to arbitrary arrests or detentions.

A leaked copy of the decision obtained by the Guardian says the legal act “establishes a framework for targeted restrictive measures to address serious human rights violations and abuses worldwide”.

The EU does not currently have the right to enforce travel bans on individuals as the competence lies with national governments, and its other sanction powers are geographically targeted.

The Dutch government initiated a discussion on the EU developing its own version of the US Magnitsky Act last November following a resolution from its parliament in The Hague.

The original US act signed by Barack Obama in 2012 was designed to target Russian officials deemed responsible for the death of the Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

Magnitsky was a Moscow lawyer and tax auditor hired to investigate a case of corruption in which a group of interior ministry officials managed to obtain a $230m rebate from the Russian state by fraudulently taking over three companies belonging to Hermitage Capital, an asset management firm.

The officials he accused had him arrested and thrown in jail, where he was beaten by prison guards. He died in custody in 2009 at the age of 37 after being refused medical treatment or family visits.

The European parliament has repeatedly called for the EU to adopt legislation similar to that enacted in the US to allow the bloc to target individuals irrespective of their nationality.

The eight members of the Nordic Council – Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Åland – had said they would adopt their own act if the EU failed to agree.

Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, which border Russia, already have such legislation.

In 2018 a Magnitsky amendment to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act was passed by the UK parliament to give the government the power to impose sanctions on people who commit gross human rights violations.

In July, in the first use of the powers, the British foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, announced sanctions against 49 individuals and organisations, including 25 Russians ranging from government officials to prison doctors and Moscow’s top prosecutor, Alexander Bastrykin, a close ally of Putin.

The EU framework will not carry Magnitsky’s name, following lobbying by the Dutch government which argued that no specific state should feel targeted. Vladimir Putin had been so enraged by the US act that he banned the adoption of Russian children by Americans.

The new EU human rights sanctions regime was agreed by foreign policy experts from the 27 member states on Thursday and will be formally approved

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Loujain al-Hathloul, Saudi women’s rights campaigner, has case transferred to terror court

One of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent women’s rights campaigners, Loujain al-Hathloul, shook uncontrollably and spoke in an uncharacteristically faint voice during a rare court appearance this week, a family member told NBC News on Thursday.

Loujain al-Hathloul’s sister, Lina al-Hathloul, told NBC News by telephone from Berlin that the siblings’ parents had witnessed the hearing in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday.

Loujain, 31, was told during the hearing that her case would be transferred to the country’s Specialized Criminal Court, which deals with terrorism cases, Lina said. It was her sister’s first court appearance since March last year, she added.

Lynn Maalouf, deputy regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at London-based rights campaigner Amnesty International, called the court transfer “a disturbing move.” The Specialized Criminal Court was “notorious for issuing lengthy prison sentences following seriously flawed trials,” she said in a statement.

Saudi authorities did not respond to NBC News’ requests for comment. NBC News was not able to independently confirm the details of Loujain’s appearance and health.

“They’re criminalizing activism,” Lina said of Saudi authorities. “It’s extremely stressful to never know what your own government can do to you.”

Diplomats from a number of states were denied entry at the courthouse under the “pretext” of Covid-19 regulations, according to Amnesty.

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Loujain, who rose to prominence when she advocated for women’s right to drive, had been on hunger strike for two weeks since October 26, her sister said. She was among a dozen other female campaigners to be arrested in May 2018, just weeks before Saudi Arabia ended a decades-long ban on women driving.

Other dissidents, including cleric Salman al-Awda, who called on the country’s rulers to be more responsive to the population’s desires for reform, have also stood trial in the country’s anti-terror court.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said that at least three jailed women’s rights activists, including Loujain, have been held in solitary confinement and subjected to abuse including electric shocks, flogging and sexual assault. Saudi Arabia has strenuously denied the allegations.

Officials have not made public the specific charges against Loujain, but last year the Saudi state news agency SPA, said Hathloul and other detained women were being charged with trying to undermine security, stability and national unity.

Demonstrators from Amnesty International stage a protest on International Women’s day in 2019 to urge Saudi authorities to release jailed women’s rights activists Loujain al-Hathloul, Eman al-Nafjan and Aziza al-Yousef outside the Saudi embassy in Paris, France.Benoit Tessier / Reuters

Earlier this month, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir told the BBC in an interview that the country had an independent judiciary and would “not allow people to lecture us.”

“Loujain al-Hathloul was detained because of issues relating to national security, dealing with foreign entities, supporting entities hostile to Saudi Arabia — it has nothing to do with advocating for women’s rights to drive,” Al-Jubeir said.

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Mexican Bloque Negro feminists occupy human rights offices for end to sexual violence, femicide

So they have made one. They kicked the government workers out of the federal Human Rights Commission building in Mexico City. They covered the walls with the names of rape victims and hung posters with the faces of the dead. Then they invited women and children to shelter.

“In here, you realize that you’re not really alone, that we have all suffered some kind of gender violence and nobody has taken care of us — not the state, not the police,” said Cali, a 26-year-old member of the group Bloque Negro, who like others spoke on the condition that her full name not be used for fear of reprisal. “So, it makes you feel safe to know that in here we can take care of ourselves.”

The occupation of the stately marble building in Mexico City’s central historic district, which began in September, is one of the most extreme acts of a feminist movement that has grown more aggressive amid the intensifying violence and what its members say is official inaction.

Last year, authorities here reported a record 3,142 femicides — the killing of girls and women for their gender. Activists say an undercurrent of machismo that runs through every part of Mexican society — families, communities, the government — is as much to blame as the perpetrators who kill, on average, nearly 10 females a day.

Elected leaders “say that they don’t know why we are angry, they say that everything is fine in the country,” said Doc, a 21-year-old who helps treat injured protesters. “But the situation is abysmal.”

Protests to fight the physical and sexual violence have overtaken cities across the country. None of the activists’ demands — including police training, a public review of government actions to stop the violence and a guarantee of the protesters’ safety have been met.

The shelter has been a safe harbor for women fleeing violent homes, abusive relationships, sexual assault, threats or the fear of being female in a country where researchers say femicides have grown by 130 percent in the past five years.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has spoken against the violence. But he has also condemned the vandalism and violence at the feminists’ demonstrations. Protesters have dumped paint on statues, vandalized monuments, shattered windows and set fires.

López Obrador, a populist who rode a wave of dramatic demonstrations to prominence himself, has suggested the activists are protesting the “wrong way.”

“Without a doubt the feminist movement deserves all our respect, but I do not agree with violence,” he told reporters in September. “That we all achieve peace and tranquility, that is an objective that we have. We are working toward that.”

The activists say the vandalism isn’t a byproduct of their protests — it’s a tactic.

“For years, they protested peacefully, going to the Monument [to Independence] with photos and candles, and nobody paid any attention,” said a 22-year-old university student at the shelter who wore a black hood and mask. “It was not until private

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‘I stand by women having a boss attitude’: Rita Ora calls for equal rights for female artists | People



'I stand by women having a boss attitude': Rita Ora calls for equal rights for female artists

Rita Ora says women in the music industry still have to fight “every day” for equal pay and rights.

The 30-year-old singer-and-actress is proud to have sustained a successful career, but says there is still a long way to go before female stars are treated as equals to their male counterparts.

Speaking to Numero Berlin magazine – of which she is the cover star – Rita said: “We as women are fighting every day to have equal pay, to have an equal voice, to be able to not be judged, to express our femininity in a way where it doesn’t undermine our power.

“Those are things that we fight for every day. Gender equality is something that I stand for. I’m very passionate about it.

“I stand by equal rights, I stand by freedom of speech and I stand by women having a boss attitude.”

She added: “For me, the defining moment is sustaining my career. Being able to still sit here today, take incredible photos, be able to talk about my career 10 years on.

“I think that’s a big achievement for artists. And to be able to sustain something for me and have the next chapter of my life and still be in the business is really amazing.”

As well as her chart success, Rita has starred in the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ franchise, had a cameo in ‘Southpaw’ alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and voiced Dr. Ann Laurent in ‘Detective Pikachu’.

Source Article

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Saudi Judge Sends Prominent Women’s Rights Activist to Terrorism Court

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Appearing weak and shaking uncontrollably, one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent prisoners, the women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, appeared before a Saudi judge on Wednesday to learn that her case was being transferred to a special court for terrorism and national security crimes, her family said.

Ms. al-Hathloul, 31, has been detained since spring 2018 and charged with crimes that include seeking to change the kingdom’s political system, campaigning for women’s rights and communicating with foreign journalists, diplomats and human rights organizations.

Rights groups have called her trial a sham and accused the kingdom of using its courts to punish her and other activists for their outspokenness.

The new twist in Ms. al-Hathloul’s case comes as Saudi Arabia prepares to transition from a close rapport with President Trump, who cared little about the human rights records of America’s Arab allies, to an uncertain relationship with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.

During the campaign, Mr. Biden vowed to reassess the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia, take away the “dangerous blank check” he said the Trump administration had offered it and impose penalties for human rights violations.

That tough talk, and fierce lobbying by rights groups in the run-up to the Group of 20 summit hosted by Saudi Arabia last weekend, had led to some speculation that the kingdom could release Ms. al-Hathloul as a good will gesture.

That has not happened, and on Wednesday, the judge said that the criminal court that had been handling her case since March 2019 lacked jurisdiction, so her case was being transferred to the Specialized Criminal Court, her sister, Lina al-Hathloul, said by phone.

That court normally handles terrorism and national security cases.

Rights groups and Ms. al-Hathloul’s family struggled on Wednesday to understand what the transfer meant.

“The court said it lacked jurisdiction, but they have been dealing with the case for a year and eight months,” Lina al-Hathloul said. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Saudi officials did not respond to a request for comment about Ms. al-Hathloul’s case. Last week Adel al-Jubeir, minister of state for foreign affairs, denied that her trial was related to her activism.

“Loujain al-Hathloul was detained because of issues related to national security, dealing with foreign entities, supporting entities hostile to Saudi Arabia,” Mr. al-Jubeir told the BBC. “It has nothing to do with advocating for women’s right to drive.”

Three other female activists arrested around the same time as Ms. al-Hathloul also appeared in court on Wednesday, Lina al-Hathloul said. They were Nouf Abdelaziz, Nassima Al-Sadah and Samar Badawi, who received the International Women of Courage Award from the U.S. State Department in 2012.

It was not clear what happened in the other women’s cases.

Loujain al-Hathloul rose to prominence in Saudi Arabia as an outspoken activist who criticized the kingdom’s restrictions on women and was detained a number of times for defying the driving ban before it was lifted in June 2018.

In March of that year, she was arrested on a highway

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