I DO NOT know her and have never met her. Yet, for some reason, every time I see her photo — every single time — my heart breaks.
Perhaps it is her smile, brimming with hope and idealism, imbued with a youthful optimism. And knowing that that smile is gone, that she is being imprisoned and tortured inside a dark dungeon in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
This is Loujain al-Hathloul, a 30-year-old Saudi human rights activist who had long campaigned against the ridiculous ban on women driving inside the kingdom, as well as the country’s discriminatory male guardianship system.
The message from the Saudi authorities was clear: Reforms will happen on the royals’ timetable — and only with royal approval. This will be a top-down, not bottom-up, process, driven by dictators, not democrats.
As a consequence, Saudi women may now have the right to drive — but the Saudi women who fought, protested, and campaigned for that right have been stripped of all of their rights. They are detained, behind bars, incommunicado; the victims of vicious torture and abuse.