Feminism terrifies authoritarians.
Why else would the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman — the heir-apparent of an absolute monarchy that has ruled since 1932 over a country named after its patriarch — hold Loujain al-Hathloul, a 28-year-old graduate student, incommunicado for weeks?
Why would he, after being lauded on CBS’s “60 Minutes” for “emancipating women” on the eve of a visit to America last March, send forces in May to arrest 17 women’s rights activists, among them Ms. Hathloul, and also Aisha al-Mana, 70, a director of hospitals and a college for health sciences who suffered a stroke last year?
What threat does a 60-year-old retired professor, Aziza al-Yousef — a mother of five and grandmother of eight who was also arrested — pose that merits a pro-government newspaper putting her picture on its front page under the headline, “You and Your Treachery Have Failed”?
And what is to be made of a full page in that newspaper in which “traitor” in red ink is stamped on photographs edited to look like mug shots of seven of the 17 women’s rights activists arrested in May? Among them was Eman al-Nafjan, a linguistics professor and mother of four, including a toddler.