Posted on January 2021

‘Torture Tour’ Dakar Rally to pass within hearing distance of Loujain al-Hathloul’s prison cell

This week’s Dakar Rally is set to pass within a few hundred meters of Riyadh’s Al-Ha’ir prison on 6/7 January, currently home of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hahloul who was last week sentenced to 5 years and 8 months for her campaign for women’s right to drive.

New research from Grant Liberty reveals the Rally:

  •  Will pass within 1km of al-Ha’ir prison home to Loujain al-Hathloul, and fellow women’s rights activists – who campaigned for the right to drive – Mayaa al-Zahrani and Nouf Abdulaziz al-Jeraiwi
  • Began within 20km of Dhahban Central Prison, Jeddah – where Loujain was initially held after and arrest, and currently holds 19 prisoners of conscience including women’s rights activist Samar Badawi
  •  In total will pass within 20km of 58 prisoners of conscience languish in prisons along the route, 17 of home have been tortured, and four – all women – have been sexually assaulted

The Dakar Rally includes 12 women drivers – until the successful campaigning of Loujain and the 3 other women’s rights activists held in Saudi prisons, they could have faced up to 20 years in prison simply for getting behind the steering wheel.

Publishing the data, Grant Liberty spokesperson Lucy Rae said,

“The Dakar Rally has become the torture tour. It is a sickening irony that as the drivers travel to Saudi Arabia to compete in the race, Loujain al-Hathloul sits in a prison cell just metres from the course.  

“Women’s rights activists have endured years in prison, psychological and physical torture, and sexual abuse for campaigning for the right to drive. Many remain in prison to this day. It is utterly grotesque that at the same time Saudi authorities will host a motor sport event – including women drivers – while the heroes that won their right to drive languish in jail.

“This sportswashing pure and simple and it is obscene. The stage should not go ahead competitors should boycott it, and the international community must demand that Saudi Arabia releases all prisoners of conscience.” 


Grant Liberty has estimated the distance between the Dakar Rally route and high profile prisons in Saudi Arabia by overlaying the official published Dakar Rally course onto GoogleMaps.

The route passes:

  • Within 1km of al-Ha’ir Prison in Riyadh on 6 January
  • Within 20km of Dhabhan Prison in Jeddah

12 women are taking part in 2021 Dakar Rally which begin January 3

Factor Detail
Prison Name Al-Hair Prison – Riyadh
Number of prisoners of conscience 39
Distance from Race Route On Route – Within 1 KM
*Assuming the race goes across Al Hair Road – which leads to the next city on the race route.
Number of Women2Drive Activists 3 (Loujain al-Hathloul, Mayaa al-Zahrani, Nouf Abdulaziz al-Jeraiwi)
Number of Prisoners Facing Death Penalty 2 (Salman al-Odah, Hassan Farhan al-Maliki)
Gender Split Female: 4
Male: 35
Hunger Strikers Protesting Prison Conditions and Arbitrary Holding 6 (Loujain al-Hathloul, Abdul Rahman Al-Sadhan, Khaled al-Omair, Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani, Fawzan al-Harbi, Salman al-Odah)
Violation Count Arbitrary arrest/ detention    38
Denied contact with family    15
Denied access to a lawyer      21
Torture and ill-treatment       8
Denied access to healthcare   2
Enforced disappearance         9
Observers denied access to court hearings   3
Solitary confinement  12
Sexual Violence           3
Group Count (With Duals) Academic 9
Family Member 1
Human Rights Activist 6
Journalist 12
Minors 1
Religious Figures 7
Women’s Rights Activists 3
Other info Feminist writer Khadija al-Harbi was arrested, and her home was raided during a crackdown on dissent in April 2019. She remains detained without charge and has been repeatedly denied access to a lawyer. She was reportedly in the late stages of pregnancy at the time of her arrest and has given birth in while in detention – where she remains.
Factor Detail
Prison Name Dhahban Central Prison – Jeddah
Number of prisoners of conscience 19
Distance from Race Route On Route – 20 KM from route end
Number of Women2Drive Activists 1 (Samar Badawi)
Number of Prisoners Facing Death Penalty 2 (Awad al-Qarni, Ali al-Omari)
Gender Split Female : 2
Male: 17
Hunger Strikers Protesting Prison Conditions and Arbitrary Holding 3 (Raif Badawi, Waleed Abu al-Khair, Saud al-Hashimi)
Violation Count Arbitrary arrest/ detention 16
Denied contact with family 10
Denied access to a lawyer 11
Torture and ill-treatment 9
Denied access to healthcare 1
Enforced disappearance 3
Observers denied access to court hearings 5
Solitary confinement 6
Sexual Violence 1
Group Count (Singles) Academic 3
Artist 1
Family Member 2
Government official 1
Human Rights Activist 4
Journalist 3
Religious Figures 4
Women’s Rights Activists 1
Other info Retaliation against activists abroad by persecuting families and treating them as hostages in Dhaban prison.
al-Ghamdi was arrested with excessive force on a street in Jeddah on 28 March 2018 together with her youngest son Adel al-Ghamdi, in the context of financial transactions between her and her elder son Abdullah al-Ghamdi, a Saudi dissident living in.London. Ms al-Ghamdi was subjected to several violations of her rights, including arrest without a warrant, denial of essential healthcare, solitary confinement, and denial of a fair and open trial in an independent court. She suffered various forms of torture, including a severe beating in front of her son Adel, who was beaten as well, and flogging with a heavy rope. Aida’s body bears marks of cigarette burns.
It may be news that Aida al-Ghamdi and her son Adel were tortured, but there is nothing new about the way in which the Saudi authorities continue to treat detainees, both men and women, especially human rights defenders and activists.

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