When the caged birds sing.

How important is it to have a voice ? And how important is it for that voice to be heard ?

A few months back ,Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the most prominent women’s rights activists from Saudi Arabia was released after spending more than 1000 days in prison. Her release came about a week after the US called on Saudi Arabia to improve its human rights record, including releasing all political prisoners and women’s rights activists.In December 2020, she was sentenced to five years and eight months in prison by a Saudi Specialised Criminal Court. The Saudi Arabian authorities charged her under the state’s broad counter-terrorism laws for undermining national security and trying to change the political system of the country.

The Saudi women's rights activists who remain behind bars | Human Rights  News | Al Jazeera

Being branded as a terrorist, she must have done something which could have endangered her country and the people. So what exactly did she do?

She had played a fundamental role in the movement to lift the driving ban on women and the “Wilayah” male guardianship system. It was only last year in August that Saudi Arabian women were allowed to travel abroad without obtaining permission from a male guardian, apply for passports and register their marriages and divorces. So trying to abolish ages old patriarchal dictum which had chained women for years, yes you can say that’s somewhat fulfills the definition of terrorism.

In 2014, al-Hathloul, who had a driving license issued in the UAE, was detained for 73 days for attempting to drive into Saudi Arabia from the UAE. Following this, weeks before the Saudi Arabian authorities lifted the ban on women drivers in 2018 (the last such ban in the world) she was arrested along with several other women’s rights activists. Before the ban was lifted, any women caught driving, could be sentenced to flogging (a beating administered with a whip or rod)

In 2015, she made an unprecedented move ,when she stood for elections , which was also the first time women were allowed to vote and stand for elections. But according to Amnesty International , her name was not even added to the ballots.

She was detained in 2018 on grounds of national security.For over 10 months after she was detained, she was not charged and there was no trial. According to Amnesty International, she was waterboarded, given electric shocks, was sexually harassed and was threatened with rape and murder during this time. Finally she was able to see the light of the day , after spending days locked up, for having a voice.

Princess Latifa is the daughter of Dubai’s billionaire ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum and his second ” official” wife Her Royal Highness Princess Haya bint Al Hussein. A video of her had surfaced a couple of months back in which she claimed she was being kept hostage by her father in a villa converted into a jail in Dubai. Talk about actually being caged, that to in your own house, that to for years, by your own father.

Amnesty accuses India of violating rights, capturing runaway Dubai princess  - India News

As per the ‘Free Latifa’ campaign, the princess tried to escape from the family residence in Dubai in 2002. She was 16 at the time. She was, however, easily tracked and brought back to the palace where she was allegedly detained by her father for over three years, the campaign says.

Latifa made a second attempt to escape in February 2018, when she met up with her friend at a coffee shop in Dubai. After which they drove out of town and managed to cross the border into Oman. From there, she got on a boat and sailed into international waters. However, she was held just off the coast of Goa in India by a “significant Indian and UAE military force”, and taken back to Dubai again.

Since they were published, the videos have led to a call for an investigation into the matter by the United Nations (UN), which has responded to these demands affirmatively saying it will raise the matter with the UAE.

As per recent pictures uploaded on social media, she was seen at various places with her friends . And the update regarding her actual whereabouts is under process.

Let’s get back to the where we began, How important is it to have a voice ? and how important is to be heard ?