But as Saudi women take the driver’s seat, the rights activists who spearheaded the campaign to end the driving ban are still in prison or have been forced into exile. Accused of treason, Saudi officials have arrested several women and their male supporters. With a possibility of a 20-year prison sentence, nine women including prominent activist Loujain al-Hathloul are slated to face a criminal court established to discern terrorism-related cases.

In a June 20 statement, Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, calls for international support on behalf of the activists languishing in prisons.”It is imperative for Saudi Arabia’s Western allies to speak out in solidarity with the detained activists and to pressure the Saudi authorities to unconditionally release those detained for their work as human rights activists before they are referred for trial,” said Whitson. “There can be no real celebration on June 24 while the women who campaigned for the right to drive and their supporters remain behind bars.”

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