Two Saudi sisters have taken to social media to plead for help securing asylum in a safe country. Identifying themselves as Maha and Wafa, the pair posted photos of their passports using the Twitter handle @GeorgiaSisters. They claim to have been stopped in the small country of Georgia while attempting to escape the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
According to the women, they face oppression in Saudi Arabia and laws don’t offer protection for women in their circumstances. The Kingdom imposes a male guardianship law on women which requires permission to travel from their male guardian (wali). These male guardians may revoke traveling privileges and put a hold on women’s passports.
Google recently came under fire for featuring an app created by the Saudi government called Absher. While the app offers citizens access to routine services such as renewing a driver’s license, it also allows for male guardians to track and control women’s movement. Men even have the option of receiving a text message whenever passports are presented at borders and may give or revoke travel permissions. Despite backlash, Google refused to remove Absher from its play store.
Another Saudi woman named Rahaf recently made international headlines when her Twitter posts pleading for help went viral. After being stopped in Thailand, she was detained by airport staff and scheduled for a departure back to Saudi Arabia despite having a visa to travel to Australia. Rahaf barricaded herself in her hotel room demanding to have her asylum request heard, and opened the door only for the United Nations Refugee Agency. According to Rahaf, she had denounced Islam, which is punishable by death in the Kingdom. She was eventually settled in Canada.
Dina Ali Lasloom wasn’t so lucky. In 2017, she attempted to escape Saudi Arabia to seek asylum in Australia. Instead, she was stopped at the Manila airport during transit and force repatriated back to the Kingdom after her uncles showed up in the Philippines. Witnesses took video of Dina Ali Lasloom as she begged airport staff for help. Despite claiming she’d be killed if returned to Saudi Arabia, Dina was forced onto a flight to Riyadh. She hasn’t been seen or heard from since then, leading rights organizations to speculate she’s either been killed or imprisoned.
Australian network ABC recently did a feature on women escaping Saudi Arabia, outlining the harsh conditions women face. According to many asylum seekers, women are treated like slaves and aren’t even allowed the luxury of choosing their own spouse. Those who managed to escape tell how the Saudi government imposes strict interpretations of Islamic laws on women.