Once again the world is hearing reports of two women fleeing their home of Saudi Arabia, shedding light on the status of women in the country. The two sisters, Wafa and Maha al-Subaie, have fled Saudi Arabia to seek asylum in the country of Georgia. Saudi Arabian citizens do not need entry visas for Georgia, however the sisters are also appealing to the U.N. to allow them refuge into a third, safer country. They fear their male relatives will track them down in Georgia and take them back to Saudi Arabia.
In March, two Saudi Women seeking refuge in Hong Kong were granted humanitarian visas. The women fled their family while on vacation in Sri Lanka and spent 6 months hiding all throughout Hong Kong. They fled their family because they faced violent abuse; they feared returning to Saudi Arabia where they could face the death penalty.
Officials in Saudi have continued to arrest human rights and women’s rights activists. A few weeks ago, Saudi Arabia released three of eleven women’s rights activists that were being held in prison. Some of these women have been held since May of 2018, with no formal charges against them. Many of these women in prison have reported cases of abuse and torture to their families.
The latest move by the two sisters is a reminder of how women are treated in the country: as second-class citizens, subject to the demands of their male relatives with nearly no recourse for abuse. The guardianship rules require women to have permission from their close male relatives to work, travel, and even visit a doctor. Because women are not allowed to travel freely in and out of the Kingdom, many are forced to flee in secret and seek asylum abroad.
Media Resources: BBC News 4/19/19; BBC News 3/25/19; Feminist Newswire 3/29/19