UBC student unions pen open letter to Ottawa in solidarity with alumna Loujain al-Hathloul

Three UBC student societies have released a letter to the federal government in solidarity with UBC alumna Loujain al-Hathloul.

The UBC AMS, Graduate Student Society (GSS) and Students’ Union Okanagan (SUO) have launched the #StudentsForLoujain campaign along with other post-secondary student societies across Canada. The campaign advocates for more effort from the federal government to allow for the immediate release of al-Hathloul.

Al-Hathloul is a women’s rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee who was arrested for defying Saudi Arabia’s now-repealed ban on women driving in 2018.

While she isn’t a Canadian citizen, she lived in Canada for five years while studying.

“As organizations that collectively represent the students of UBC, the AMS, GSS & SUO are sending an open letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs urging the Canadian government to escalate its efforts to ensure the safe and immediate release of our community member, Loujain al-Hathloul,” wrote Saad Shoaib, AMS associate VP external, in an emailed statement.

Al-Hathloul is currently being tried for treason in Saudi Arabian terrorism court. Prosecutors are seeking a maximum possible jail sentence of 20 years. A verdict is expected next week.

The open letter asks Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne to continue advocating for her rights.

“As a member of our student community, Ms. Al-Hathloul is the embodiment of the values of equity, equality and justice that we strive to uphold,” the letter reads. “Presently, we are gravely concerned about Loujian’s [sic] deteriorating health condition while in detention.”

She has told her family that she has suffered corporal punishment and solitary confinement while detained. She has also been on a hunger strike twice in 2020.

Global Affairs Canada said in November that the government is concerned about the situation and will continue to monitor it.

Students can write messages in support of al-Hathloul on the #StudentsForLoujain website.

“Loujain is an inspiration to all who work to make the world a more equitable and inclusive place. Her relentless activism directly led to the lifting of the ban on women driving but at a personal cost to herself,” GSS VP External Alireza Kamyabi wrote.

“Loujain has displayed astonishing courage and strength. We’ll continue to advocate tirelessly for her immediate safe release and urge [the] Canadian government to escalate their efforts in doing the same.”