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Comedian Hasan Minhaj confronts Kushner while honouring detained Saudi activist

Loujain Al-Hathloul has been imprisoned and tortured in Saudi Arabia for her human rights activism

Date of publication: 24 April, 2019

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Saudi rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul was honoured at this year's Time Magazine gala dinner, where the 100 most influential people in the world gathered.
Time Magazine has honoured imprisoned Saudi women’s rights activist Lujain Al-Hathloul during this year's gala dinner, where comedian Hasan Minhaj took aim at Jared Kushner at a packed out gala for the 2019 list of 100 most influential people in the world.

Since 1999, Time Magazine has published an annual list of 100 people it recognizes as having changed the world the most. Those who make it to the list are honoured at a highly publicised gala dinner featuring actors, leaders, and celebrities.

Attending the dinner was US President Donald Trump’s chief advisor and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who is known for his personal friendship with Saudi Crown Prince and strongman Mohammed bin Salman.

Hathloul was arrested in Saudi Arabia in May 2018 and subjected to solitary confinement and torture. She remains in prison and was recently put on trial with other women’s rights activists for contacting foreign media and human rights organisations.

Amnesty International has condemned the charges as “bogus”. 

Comedian Hasan Minhaj, also included in the Time100 list, used his speech at the gala event to thank Al-Hathloul for her efforts to lift the Saudi ban on women driving and called Kushner out for his close relationship with Mohammed bin Salman.

“I know there’s a lot of very powerful people here, and it would be crazy if there was a high ranking official in the White House that could WhatsApp MbS and say, ‘hey maybe you could help that person get out of prison because they don’t deserve it,'” Minhaj said to the audience.

“But hey, that person would have to be in the room. It’s just a good comedy premise.”

Kushner has been accused by Democrats in the US House of Representative of using WhatsApp to contact foreign officials, which would constitute a breach of US records laws.

At the event, Kushner told a forum that he “doesn’t dispute” US intelligence findings that Mohammed bin Salman was likely behind the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.

In its issue dedicated to the 100 most influential people of 2019, Time Magazine said that a June 2018 change in the law allowing women to drive “was built on the fearless, longtime efforts of activists like Loujain”, calling the activist “a model of Saudi womanhood”.

Also included in the Time 100 list were Egyptian footballer Mohammed Salah and the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates, Mohammed bin Zayed. The list features people who have changed the world, regardless of the consequences of their actions.

Despite the change in the Saudi kingdom’s driving laws, Hathloul and other womens’ rights activists remain behind bars. Saudi newspapers previously published photos of them on their front pages branded with the words “traitor”.

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