Jailed Saudi women activists receive PEN Freedom to Write Award

Hillel Italie in The Christian Science Monitor:

Three Saudi women’s rights activists whose arrests last year have been condemned worldwide are being honored by PEN America. Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain al-Hathloul, and Eman al-Nafjan have won the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, the literary and human rights organization announced Thursday. The award was established in 1987 and is given to writers imprisoned for their work, with previous recipients coming from Ukraine, Egypt and Ethiopia among other countries.

In custody for working to “undermine the security” of the kingdom, Ms. Abdulaziz, Ms. Hathloul, and Ms. Nafjan have openly opposed such government policies as a ban on women driving and the restriction of women’s travel, education, and other rights without approval from a male guardian. On Wednesday, Ms. Hathloul and Ms. Nafjan were among those at a closed-door hearing in Riyadh, according to Amnesty International. Reporters were not allowed in. The PEN award comes at a time of international outrage at Saudi Arabia and at Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, especially after the Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered in October 2018 by Saudi agents at the country’s consulate in Istanbul. Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Council denounced Saudi Arabia’s “continuing arrests and arbitrary detentions of human rights defenders”

Activists have alleged that the PEN winners have been subjected to torture, including flogging and sexual assault. Saudi officials have denied the allegations.

More here.