Loujain Al Hathloul

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In a country where you get an eight years prison term for torturing your daughter to death while another gets a ten years sentence for dancing naked in the street, it’s safe to say we are conformists. That’s why there is no experience like that of being on an international flight outbound from Saudi. The people you get off the plane will look completely different from those who got on. While most women in Saudi wear the niqab and most men wear a thobe, these magically disappear once the plane crosses Saudi borders. Most of the women who get off at the end of the trip will have their faces uncovered and many will not even have their hair covered now that they are safe from the conformist claws of Saudi. This duality is so integrated that it’s second nature to most.

Loujain Al Houthloul

Loujain Al Houthloul

That’s why being an individual in Saudi is a ginormous feat that has surprisingly been accomplished by a young lady, Loujain Al Houthloul. And like everything that Al Hathloul does, her first appearance in the Saudi collective consciousness caused a commotion. She posted a Keek video where she not only appeared with her face and hair uncovered but also addressed the fact openly by making fun of ultra-conservatives and defyingly saying that she won’t ever cover. The video instantly went viral and had such a huge impact that she deleted it from her Keek page. Yet it was too late. The video had been downloaded and sent over every social media format in existence. Once the 24 year old French Literature undergraduate got her second breath and adjusted to the attention, she stood her ground and posted several more Keek videos. When racists started to try to put her down by spreading a rumor that she’s originally from India, she responded in a Keek video that she would be proud to be Indian. Others tried to “tame” her through attempting romance and marriage. One guy publicly offered her a million and a half Saudi riyals for her hand in marriage.

She currently has over a 150,000 followers on Twitter, 92,000 on Instagram  and over 670,000 followers on Keek. I’m also betting that there are thousands of Saudis who probably check her accounts on a daily basis but don’t follow her so as to not encourage her.

When we at the October 26th Campaign were looking for a celebrity to announce the campaign, we contacted people who we knew were pro women driving. They all refused because they feared that they would lose followers, fans and might have trouble at their places of work or study. Then someone suggested Loujain and we contacted her. When we explained the campaign to her, she instantly and boldly agreed to announce it. Then an hour later, she contacted us again. I thought she was going to back out like the others but instead she asked if she could add her own take about the injustice of the driving ban to the announcement. I officially fell in love with her right then and there.

The next day she posted the Keek video and within 15 minutes it was viewed by over five thousand people and we could safely say that the October 26th Campaign had started. She had nothing to do with the idea of the campaign before her announcement and little to do with it after. However she received the brunt of women driving opposers’ attacks. Many assumed that since she announced it then she must be the person behind it. She got everything ranging from death threats and insults to false rumors of her arrest and ban from travel. Instead of backing down and staying in Canada where she was studying, Loujain booked a flight home to Riyadh and then drove herself from the airport while her father filmed her. Then she posted the video. It drove the opposers crazy! So crazy that the Ministry of Interior called her father in and made him sign a pledge to not allow her to drive again. It got so bad that her great uncle was pressured into releasing a statement renouncing her actions. Despite all of that she still stands her ground and to this day tweets and plans to post videos that go against Saudi duality. I don’t care how cliché it is, she really is like a breath of fresh cool air in this hot desert climate.

41 Comments

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41 responses to “Loujain Al Hathloul

  1. Gutsy and free soul. Shaikh Al-Arifi may have to reconsider his new scientific findings about women whom decided can not talk, think and remember at the same time.

    http://www.alqabas.com.kw/node/810843

    لمزيد من الجهل يمكن النقر على الرابط التالي:

    http://al-mashhad.com/News/فيديو- العريفي- شهادة- المرأة- نصف- شهادة- الرجل- والسبب-/475973.aspx

  2. Mona

    I support women driving .i am a working woman who lives in Riyadh alone and I need to drive ,loujain really represents me ,. I need to drive.i can’t pay money to a driver it’s so expensive and he is so mean ,he wants half of my salary .i rent a flat and my salary is not high, please help us drive ,we need you to change this mentality of ppl here. I really would love to immigrate but I don’t know what to do,

    • radwan

      Things will change for the best. I know how you feel and must be very difficult. It’s the backward mentality.

      My question to you, would you want to drive where they drive like maniacs? It’s not safe.

  3. Mobility is a basic human right. Driving is necessitated by demands of modernity. Denying women the right to drive is not only violations of people’s rights to be able to move freely and earn honest living, but can save the country billions of riyals which poor women (and rich ones too) spend on employing expats, according to Prince Alwaleed.

    http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/2/8/69285/World/Region/Saudi-prince-AlWaleed-bin-Talal-makes-economic-cas.aspx

  4. Karin Muller

    May our prophet Mohammed (PBUH) see to this ..noone else can :-(. I have a sad news about myself..No muslim group of the sunni or shiite direction wants me and they have made that clear to me…my own group loves me but will let me go back to my original religion which is catholic (my mother is church of England). But in my heart…Mohammed (PBUH) is still my unambigous prophet (PBUH) and I will carry in my heart his tender words documented in the holy Qu’ran which was written for him as he could not read in right. I love him (PBUH) even if I am catholic or muslim and his words still ring in ears in time of sorrow and happiness at all times :-) Karin Muller from Luxembourg…now off to have a lovely riesling wine from the Moselle and a Corsica wild boar sausage. I am not muslim so I can have these things and no longer need to wear a veil or gloves in my own country. I will only wear them when I come to your lovely country to be near to the place he grow up in…You have him all alround you in the shape of wonderful courageaous Saudi men who stand by you no matter what happens…They love you to bits and we will all win our battle…I has been so long and we will soon make it. All my love and until soon I hope…….

  5. This was lovely reading! No cliche at all, just a wonderful brave woman who deserve our full respect.

  6. Madeha Alajroush

    Eman, I can’t agree with you more she is a breath of fresh air. Lougain represents the inner wish and thought of many who will not dare to stand up and express a thought that ends the Saudi identity of contraction.

  7. Al-Arifi and his likes should tell us that Adah Almutairi can not talk, remember and think at the same time.

  8. Litzy

    My new hero!!

  9. I love this. let Saudi women drive, go out alone, enjoy the freedoms women around the world have! It’s time men to let go of your shackles.

  10. faraqsa

    Driving thats an issue with the saudi government.
    Can you please refer me to an article regarding hijab ? cuz I am really curious to know about is it cultural or religion ?

    • radwan

      Hi you asked about the hijab. Well you will be amazed to know our prophet Muhammad adopted this from the Christian/,jewish woman of that time, the hijab dignifies a woman. Once written in Islam will never change.

      Our prophet Muhammad showed a lot of respect to woman and gave them rights.

  11. Maxwell R. Glen

    What is going on in Manfuha is more important, I think. I wonder if we will have a blog post about that?

    • Who do you think you are to dictate what’s important and what isn’t or what I should write about or what I shouldn’t? Start your own blog.

      • Karin Muller

        Dear Mrs Al Houthlul,

        Could you please remove all my postings (at least those from 2013 and beginning 2014) as in hindsight, after re-reading them again recently, many are really total rubbish. I wrote several emails to you with this request, but I assume they got lost somewhere along the line.

        Many of my own silly comments were posted when I was tipsy at the time of writing (for various reasons including the fact that after officially leaving the religious non Sunni non Shiite community I belonged to for 9 months, I was often offered a glass of wine by people in my surroundings. Not being used to alcohol anymore….I got totally drunk on just one glass and unfortunately had my laptop always nearby. :-(

        You have to be totally confused to put your email and tel. number on internet…..like it did…so I hope you understand my request.

        I am sorry for any inconvenience or insult caused to anyone on your blog. I greatly admire the courage and perseverance of the Saudi Women and Men involved in this struggle and have a real hope that you will succeed in this very difficult task. Many good and just people are on your side and I firmly believe it is only a question of time and patience until your rights will be implemented and anchored in Saud Arabia’s law system.

        I say this ….because I believe in Saudi Arabia’s people :-) and you will be able to decide your own future without any interference from outside (including from us Westerners who sometimes, I confess, have an attitude of “holier than thou”…..when it comes to meddling in other people’s lives.

        Kindest regards
        Karin Muller

      • razwan

        Let me get my violin out!

    • Karin Muller

      You be very careful what you say Sir. You might not get out of SA on time if you are here. I will see ro it personally.

  12. mizliz

    What an inspiring and wonderful article! Please keep adding these outstanding women and their stories to your site since I may miss them if they make it into the general media coverage in the west.

    Do any older Saudi women express outrage over womens issues that aren’t part of the intellectual elite? I have always been curious about this.

    Could someone also tell me the latest on Tariq Al Mubarak? I still cannot find out anything.

    Please keep your blog like it is because you have found a magic formula that is interesting and educational at the same time to people around the world. Keep up your great work!

  13. mizliz

    I just read that Saudi Arabia has won a seat at the Human Rights Council, the UN’s highest rights monitoring body. How can this be with half of their population not receiving the basic freedoms of the rest of the world?

    Who is going to monitor the KSA?

  14. escortdiary

    Interesting. But Loujain is also perhaps more poison than cure. Adapting to Western style modernity ignores the vast exploitation, oppression. I hope she educates herself about the ills of Western-Liberalism, rather than seeing assimilation as the key to justice.

    Its very sad to see ignorant Saudis try to ‘degrade’ her by calling her Indian. Good on her for noting she would be proud to be Indian. Sadly too many Saudis have adopted European racist ideology, which indirectly praises whiteness over dark. If only those empty minded persons would have humanity for cultures that deeply influenced them.

  15. roberta messina

    Very interesting, why is it not more known among european women like me?

  16. I think Saudi women are so beautiful and strong!

    • Karin Muller

      Ok. I have been monitoring these conversations long enough now. We are at the brink of a world war which is going to ignate very soon DAMN close ro your country. We need EVERY driver we can have immediately and rhat includes women. If I survive until Christmas because none of you moron WESTERN ESPECIALLY AMERICAN WOMEN LIVING IN SAUDI ARABIA realises what my imminent conversion to Wahabbism means (it equals a death sentence already issued by an Iranian Fatwa(to be carried out by a palestinian). If I survive all this till after Christmas, i will be sure to sign a petition for execution of every Western woman who dared to speak against the justified right to drive if the noble Saudi Women. So every western, especially US and UK and Scandinavia better get your fat arses out of Saudi Arabia with your husbands and children before this happens. I am for the right of driving of women BECAUSE the United Armed Forces (US MARINES, US AIRFORCE AND US NAVY hovering all around you (including French Submarines and Foreign Legion which are on high alert at the moment) need every deiver they can get. The Imam who raped his daughter is not going to live long anymore. We are seeing the Saudi embassy in Berne in Wednesday and the Israeli embassy in Paris next monday) and will set his execution as a confition of negotiation for any major military intervention.? So western ladies get your make up ready and leave. You should never have come ro Saudi Arabia in the first place and witness the misery of thevwomen here in Saudi Arabia. I say get your arses out now and fir gids sake get your children out first and your husbands have to get out last ( i a not sure theyvwill be let out)

      • Karin Muller

        Sorry for this ridiculous comment. It is so blatantly incoherent, stupid and embarrassing and totally unfounded, that I myself don’t understand a hoot of it and haven’t a clue what I was rambling on about. It was written after a glass of wine which at the time got me totally tipsy, as I was not used to alcohol anymore. I have reread it only recently and got a shock when I saw it.
        It shows me again that alcohol has the potential of being a real poison to the mind and brain and may bring out the worst in some people.
        Thank you for understanding and sorry for the rude language and any inconvenience or offense I might have caused to anyone.

        I really hope the administrator will delete my comments on this blog.
        Kind regards
        Karin Muller

  17. it was Very interesting, “Loujain Al Hathloul”

  18. Abdul Aziz

    http://www.yourrights.org.uk/yourrights/the-right-of-peaceful-protest/

    Does Saudi Arabia or any other middle east autocratic country has this fundamental right of citizen. THE RIGHT FOR PEACEFUL PROTEST. FIRST OF ALL THE ARAB COUNTRIES DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER WOMAN AS HUMAN BEINGS, IT IS AGAINST the PREACHING OF PROPHET, WHEN HIS OWN WIFE AND DAUGHTERS WERE HIGHLY EDUCATED, were able to participate in BUSINESS. Why is that today’s ISLAM VERY DIFFERENT. IF PROPHETS WIFE’s and DAUGHTERS COULD RIDE CAMELS, WHY CANNOT THE MUSLIM WOMEN DRIVE CARS?
    ALL THE PROPHETS FROM ABRaHAM TO MOHAMMED FOUGHT AGAINST OPPRESSION, SLAVERY AND OPPRESSORS. Are we following a deviant islam, or a selective islam to suit the oppressors to control people?

  19. Change, Change.
    Marx, Lenin. They were so concerned with Change. I. don` want to grow old reading this Blog, no matter how much I. like Saudiwoman.

  20. Eminado

    wow. And I thought we African women had it bad. In Nigeria muslim women drive, socialize with men and in the southern parts even marry christian men(the children are split equally down both religions or attend the church and mosque equally till they are 18 then they can be traditional worshippers for all anyone cares). After reading much of the articles on this blog, I now truly value and cherish this freedom.

  21. Brad

    It is about human rights. Nothing can stop the truth from taking hold. But it will take time. Don’t ever forget Love.

  22. She is a well-deserved idol!

  23. roxanaaguilera

    q dificil esa sociedad ,para todos ,y para empeorar un gobierno monarquico-dictador.
    Muy corajosas las mujeres Saudi, Mi solidaridad.

  24. Pier

    I lived in Saudi Arabia for 15 years, and even as a man I saw how harsh this country can be towards his own daughters. I’m glad that incredible and courageous women like Loujain resist in a peacefull and intellectual way to this oppression. Keep the hard work girls !
    Greetings from France

  25. حبي لجين انا اتمنا اتكلم معك بس

  26. Reblogged this on lydia7777's Blog and commented:
    You go girl I’m so proud of you:-)

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