It was a photo of a group of us from the Pakistan Students’ Association. Front and center in it was my friend, Loujain al-Hathloul. We were pictured together at an event in 2011 at our alma mater, the University of British Columbia (UBC), in Vancouver, Canada.
I don’t remember exactly, but Loujain probably had, as she often did, driven us to the Pakistani restaurant 40 minutes away from our school to pick up the catered food for the event. We had probably thanked her endlessly, as we often did, for taking us to the event from our dorms, our heels and outfits made of silk, chiffon and lace standing no chance in the Vancouver rain if we walked in them across our enormous campus.
The same smiling young woman in the photo we unearthed now faced incarceration and worse for having dared to do the same in the country she grew up in: to drive. Loujain was arrested in May 2018 in the United Arab Emirates, where she had been living, and then removed to Saudi Arabia and detained.
It is absurd that Trump’s self-aggrandizing nomination is being given incessant attention, while someone whose peaceful and tireless work spanning many years for the advancement of all Saudi women remains locked behind bars.
Loujain receiving the Nobel Peace Prize would send a strong message to the Crown Prince and his rogue gallery of miscreants: that despite their attempts to squander and squash the voice and spirit of a woman who dared to imagine a brighter future for Saudi women — they will fail. Being named a TIME honoree has already shown that the international community has not only taken notice of her efforts, but are rightly lauding her accomplishments. Loujain would join the likes of previous winners such as Malala Yousafzai and Nadia Murad, women from imperialized nations who have overcome incredible adversity — to only have their commitment to the liberation of women globally, strengthen.
Highlighting Loujain’s conditions as a political prisoner is vital; however, the media ought to also showcase her peaceful activism over the years — activism that ignited one of the biggest social reforms ever seen in the ultra-conservative absolute monarchy.
As a Nobel Peace Prize nominee whose only delinquency has been to peacefully demand equal rights, only one outcome will deliver justice for Loujain: a full pardon that grants her immediate release.
It is my hope that, like in the photo we took all those years ago, Loujain stands front and center again one day soon, to receive her Nobel Peace Prize.