One year ago, just as the Saudi government finally ended the ban on women driving, many activists who had campaigned against the ban and for women’s rights more generally were arrested. Among those detained were writer-activists Nouf Abdulaziz, Loujain Al-Hathloul, and Eman Al-Nafjan, who have been subjected to imprisonment, solitary confinement, and torture by the Saudi Arabian regime. On May 21, in New York City, PEN America will bestow on these three women the 2019 PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award, given each year to writers imprisoned for their work. Friends and relatives will accept the award on their behalf, and then travel to Washington.

Please join PEN America and the Project on Middle East Democracy for a discussion of the Saudi government’s campaign to silence dissent and repress freedom of expression, including the detentions of Abdulaziz, Al-Hathloul, and Al-Nafjan.


Discussion 1: The detention of Loujain Al-Hathloul


Brother and sister of Saudi activist and social media commentator Loujain Al-Hathloul

Watch the discussion.



Discussion 2: The crackdown on freedom of expression and women’s rights activists


Saudi activist and blogger currently living as a political refugee in Italy


Award-winning Saudi journalist and filmmaker who has directed and produced documentaries for PBS and BBC

Watch the discussion.



Both discussions will be moderated by


Contributing writer, The New Yorker;
Distinguished Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center



Thursday, May 23, 2019

2:00 – 3:30 p.m.


1800 Massachusetts Avenue NW

Washington, D.C.


Saudi Arabia's Crackdown on Freedom of Expression: Targeting Women's Rights Activists