Saudi Women’s Rights Activist Al-Hathloul Sentenced & Global News

by Debra Brown

Loujain al-Hathloul

Each Wednesday, we recap the most important headlines from our global community to keep you up to speed on world news.


This week, women around the world were taking the lead fighting for women’s rights and freedom of press from Saudi Arabia, China and Argentina. In Saudi Arabia, leading women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathoul was sentenced despite large international criticism of her arrest. In China, Zhang Zhan, a citizen journalist, has been sentenced for her whistleblower reporting on the coronavirus pandemic from Wuhan in its initial stages. In Argentina, abortion was legalized,  a huge victory for women’s rights activists in the conservative nation. 


Saudi Women’s Rights Activist Al-Hathloul Sentenced 

A Saudi terrorism court has sentenced prominent women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul to five years and eight months in prison, local media reported, despite international criticism of her detention and pressure to release her.

Al-Hathloul, 31, has been in custody since 2018 after being arrested along with at least a dozen other women’s rights activists.

Rights organisations have documented the torture and sexual violence al-Hathloul has been subjected to since her arrest.

Al-Hathloul was previously jailed in 2014, after Saudi authorities put her in juvenile detention when she tried to drive into the kingdom from the neighbouring United Arab Emirates.

She was freed 73 days later following an international campaign.

Al-Hathloul was among a handful of Saudi women who openly called for the right to drive before it was allowed in 2018 and for the removal of male guardianship laws that have long stifled Saudi women’s freedom of movement and ability to travel.


Columbus, Ohio, Officer Who Shot & Killed Andre Hill Is Fired

Columbus, Ohio, Officer Adam Coy, who fatally shot Andre Hill, a Black man during an early morning non emergency call last week, was fired.

Police Chief Tom Quinlan, as well as the city’s mayor and other leaders, have called for Coy’s dismissal since the shooting on Dec. 22. Following a disciplinary hearing Monday, Public Safety Director Ned Pettus agreed.

Pettus, who is the only official with the authority to fire police officers, said Coy had violated the department’s use-of-force policy, failed to follow protocol by delaying the activation of his body camera, and failed to render aid to the dying man.

Hill’s friends and family have described him as being passionate about the Black Lives Matter movement. The Columbus Dispatch reported, “Hill was wearing a BLM shirt early Tuesday morning when he was confronted by Coy and the female officer.”

Hill’s killing was the second officer-involved shooting in Columbus in a span of three weeks, setting off a new round of protests against local law enforcement and accusations of excessive use of force.


Strong Earthquake Strikes Central Croatia

At least six people were killed, dozens were wounded and several towns in central Croatia were left in ruins after a powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake struck on Tuesday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey and Croatian officials.

The quake, which hit just after noon local time about 30 miles from the capital, Zagreb, could be felt across the Balkans and as far away as Hungary. It followed a smaller earthquake a day earlier and another in March. 

The epicenter of the quake was near the towns of Petrinja and Sisak, which is home to the region’s largest hospital, rendered largely unusable because of damage. Although people injured in the quake were still being taken to the facility to be triaged, including two in critical condition, the government said it would evacuate the patients there. That effort would also include moving 40 coronavirus patients to other facilities.


Mass Shooting Kills 220+ People in Western Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, the death toll from a mass shooting attack in the west of the country last Wednesday has surpassed 220 people, according to humanitarian workers. The Ethiopian military killed dozens of suspects the day after the attack. The region has been plagued by increasing ethnic violence, which has caused tens of thousands to flee amid recent fighting.

This comes as Ethiopia’s military is still locked in a battle with Tigray forces in the north of the country in a conflict which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

Victims and survivors of the attacks speaking to the Amhara Mass Media Agency said the attacks were identity based, attacks on ethnic Amhara.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission called for an immediate investigation and prosecution of those including responsible for preventing attacks or otherwise perpetrators. It also called for provision of medical and humanitarian assistance to the victims, adding that ‘human rights protection in the region is weakening.’


Citizen Journalist Jailed for 4 Years Over Wuhan Virus Reporting 

A Chinese citizen journalist held since May for her livestream reporting from Wuhan as the COVID-19 outbreak unfolded was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday, almost a year after details of an “unknown viral pneumonia” surfaced in the central China city.

Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, was accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for her reporting in the chaotic initial stages of the outbreak.

Zhang, who is 37, began a hunger strike in June, according to her lawyers, and has been force-fed via a nasal tube as concerns grow about her health.

Zhang, who has maintained her innocence, is the first of a group of four citizen journalists detained by authorities earlier this year after reporting from Wuhan to face trial.


Argentina Legalizes Abortion

Argentina on Wednesday became the largest nation in Latin America to legalize abortion, a landmark vote in a conservative region and a victory for a grass-roots movement that turned years of rallies into political power.

The measure’s approval in the Senate, by a wider-than-expected margin of 38 to 29, with one abstention — came after 12 hours of often dramatic debate, exposing the tensions between the long-dominant Roman Catholic Church, whose influence is waning, and a growing feminist movement.

Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernández, has promised to sign the bill into law, making it legal for women to end pregnancies for any reason up to 14 weeks. After that, there will be exceptions allowed for rape and the health of the mother.

The vote was a major legislative victory for Mr. Fernández, Argentina’s center-left president, who has made women’s rights central to his administration’s agenda.

Primarily, it was a win for Argentina’s grass-roots abortion-rights advocates, who have recently paved the way for other deep shifts in the country’s cultural and political landscape — including marriage equality, gender parity initiatives and transgender rights. 


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