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Biden versus the dictators

Will the new President’s Middle East policy finally prioritise human rights over realpolitik?

By Ruth Michaelson  
High ideals: Joe Biden is inaugurated on 20th January 2021 Credit: PA images

High ideals: Joe Biden is inaugurated on 20th January 2021 Credit: PA images/Liu Jie/Xinhua News Agency

In late December, the Saudi Arabian feminist Loujain al-Hathloul was sentenced behind closed doors at Riyadh’s Specialised Criminal Court. Al-Hathloul, who campaigned for women’s right to drive and an end to male guardianship in the Kingdom, was found guilty on terrorism charges. “Loujain cried when she heard the sentence,” her sister Lina tweeted after the verdict. “After nearly three years of arbitrary detention, torture, solitary confinement, they now sentence her and label her a terrorist.”

The delays that had dogged al-Hathloul’s case for years suddenly ceased following the election of Joe Biden as the new American president in November—a result…

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