Posted on October 2020

Loujain al-Hathloul: Sister begs Ladies European Tour golfers to boycott Saudi event in solidarity with women’s rights activists held in the Kingdom

Lina al-Hathloul, sister of jailed women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, has today written to the top players on the Ladies European Tour, requesting that they boycott the proposed events in Saudi Arabia in solidarity with her sister.

The Saudi Ladies International (12-15 November), and the Saudi Ladies Team International (17-19 November), will be the first international women’s golf events in the Kingdom. England’s Meghan MacLaren, who finished last season as the top British player on the LET, announced she would boycott the event when it was originally scheduled for March, stating that she would not take part in “sportswashing“.

Loujain al-Hathloul is a prominent human rights activist known for her campaigns for women’s rights in the Kingdom. She became the target of the Saudi authorities after she publicly defied the driving ban on women. Since her arrest in March 2018 she has been subjected to threats of sexual assault, torture, prolonged solitary confinement and enforced disappearance, and was recently forced into a hunger strike to secure access to her family.

There are currently at least 12 female women’s rights activists in Saudi Prisons. Of those 12, at least 5 have been tortured, and at least 4 have suffered some form of sexual violence.

A further 10 are on temporary release – at least 6 of those have been tortured.

In the letter Lina writes:

“My sister is a women’s rights activist imprisoned and tortured by the Saudi regime. I understand the importance of sports to create links and bridges between different societies. However, the current Saudi regime uses sports to whitewash its crimes, to have a window to the West, while maintaining and even worsening women’s conditions inside the country. Don’t go to Saudi Arabia, don’t help that barbaric regime launder its reputation through your excellence. Stand in solidarity with women’s rights activists. Boycott the Ladies European Tour events in Saudi Arabia.”

“As a leading athlete you have a platform, and with that platform comes responsibility. Your endorsement – implicit or explicit – carries enormous weight. As a woman, you know that women’s rights are human rights, and that the battle for equality is far from won. In Saudi Arabia, that battle is being lost – and my sister and campaigners like her – have been tortured for asking for the basic rights that we should all be able to take for granted.

“Don’t let them make you complicit in their crimes. I understand that you have not chosen to take on a political role – the Saudi regime has forced it upon you. But you are now stuck with a choice – attend, and give tacit endorsement to the Saudi regime and its imprisonment and torture of activists like my sister, or stand up for women’s rights and refuse to play a part in their grubby charade.

“I am begging you, as a woman, as a person of conscience and as a role model – please boycott the Saudi women’s tour event. Stand up for women. Say no to torture, and demand the release of my sister and other prisoners of conscience in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” 

Lucy Rae, Grant Liberty Spokesperson added,

The Ladies European Tour is being used. The Saudi regime wants to hide its despicable treatment of women’s rights campaigners behind a multi-million dollar event that top female athletes should not be part.   

“Today, right now in Saudi Arabia, women’s rights activists are in prison for campaigning for the right to drive, and the right to live their lives as they see fit – as free people in their own right. Those brave women have suffered torture and sexual violence. 

“For these women the handmaid’s tale isn’t fiction, it is a fact of life, and the injustice of an apartheid regime isn’t in the past, it’s in everything they do. Just as a sporting boycott helped end apartheid a sporting boycott is needed now to stand up for these brave women. Female golfers should not let the Saudis make them complicit in their crimes. They should say no to this brutal regime and this charade.”


Notes to Editors

  • The Saudi Ladies International will be the first Ladies European Tour (LET) event to take place in Saudi Arabia and will run from Nov. 12-15, with a purse of $1 million, the third-highest paying event in the LET 2020 tour after the Women’s British Open ($4.5 million) and Ladies Scottish Open ($1.5 million). The event was initially scheduled for March 2020 but due to COVID-19 pandemic was postponed to November 2020. As of September 2020, the event is set to attract more than 100 participants. We could mention the top players here. The event it followed by the Saudi Ladies Team International a few days later on Nov. 17-19, in which professionals will team up with amateurs and compete for a purse of $500,000.
  • Lina al-Hathloul is the sister of Loujain al-Hathloulher letter to the top golfers on the European Tour is attached.
  • Today, there are at least 12 female women’s rights activists held in Saudi prisons. They are: Naima al-Matrood, Samar Badawi, Loujain al-Hathloul, Nassima al-Sada, Nouf Abdulaziz al-Jeraiwi, Aida al-Ghamdi, Israa Al-Ghomgham, Fatima Al-Nassif, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Noor Al-Muslim, Khadija al-Harbi, Maha Al-Rafidi

A table detailing the treatment of women’s rights activist held in the Kingdom since Mohammed Bin Salman ascended to his position as Crown Prince is attached. They include 12 currently in prison, 10 on temporary release and 3 who have been released. 11 have been tortured and 6 have faced sexual violence.

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‘Grubby charade’: Sister of leading jailed Saudi women’s activist begs Ladies European Tour golfers to boycott Saudi event