|[Published: Saturday January 12 2019]
Saudi women, tired of restraints, find ways to flee
BEIRUT, Lebanon, 12 Jan. - (ANA) — Whenever her father beat her, or bound her wrists and ankles to punish her for perceived disobedience, the Saudi teenager dreamed of escape, she said, writes Friday the New York Times.
As desperate as she was to leave, however, the same question always stopped her short: How would she get out?
If she ran away anywhere within the country, the Saudi police would just send her home, she feared. Saudi law barred her from traveling abroad without her father’s permission.
But during a family vacation in Turkey when she was 17, Shahad al-Muhaimeed saw her chance, and bolted. While her family slept, she took a taxi across the border to Georgia and declared herself a refugee, leaving Saudi Arabia behind to start a new life.
“I now live the way I want to,” said Ms. Muhaimeed, 19, by phone from her new home in Sweden. “I live in a good place that has women’s rights.”
World attention was drawn to the status of Saudi women after another teenager, Rahaf Alqunun, was stopped in Thailand last week while trying to make it to Australia to seek refuge there. After an international social media campaign, the United Nations declared her a refugee on Wednesday. She left Thailand on Friday and was flying to Canada, where officials said she had been granted asylum.
The phenomenon of women trying to flee Saudi Arabia is not new, coming to the world’s attention as early as the 1970s, when a Saudi princess was caught trying to flee the kingdom with her lover. The couple were tried for adultery and executed.
But the number of young women considering and taking the enormous risk to flee Saudi Arabia appears to have grown in recent years, rights groups say, as women frustrated by social and legal constraints at home turn to social media to help plan, and sometimes document, their efforts to escape.
“All these women who 15 years ago would have never been heard from can now find a way to reach out,” said Adam Coogle, who monitors Saudi Arabia for Human Rights Watch quoted by the New York Times.
In Saudi Arabia, all women are required to have a male guardian, whose permission they need to get married, travel and undergo some medical procedures. The guardian is often a father or husband, but can be a brother or even a son.
Saudi men use a government website to manage the women they have guardianship over, granting or denying them the right to travel, for example, and even setting up notifications so that they receive a text message when their wife or daughter boards a plane. - (ANA) -
AB/ANA/12 January 2019 - - -