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Saudi Sisters escaped a bad situation for a worse one

Two sisters, Saudi nationals, are stranded in Hong Kong after a fail attempt to flee their family in Saudi Arabia. Persistent physical abuse by their father and brothers provoked them to take the plunge, and they now fear a forcible return to the Kingdom.

To cover up their identities, the sisters are referred with the aliases Reem and Rawan. They are deeply disturbed by their upbringing in a conservative Saudi family.

A few months ago, they made their first move to flee Saudi Arabia. Despite their meticulous planning, the young sisters, aged 18 and 20, got outsmarted by the Saudi government’s conspiracy to stop their runaways.

After the successful fleeing attempt of Saudi women Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the case of Reem and Rawan has called worldwide attention. The young sisters, trapped on a foreign soil, have pleaded the international community for help.

The passports of Saudi sisters have been canceled by the Saudi authorities, yet Hong Kong has permitted their continued stay in the country without a visa, which will end on February 28.

According to the sisters, if they are deported back to Saudi Arabia, they may be jailed or could even face “honor killing” by their orthodox family. The Saudi regime approves of Islam apostasy as punishable by death.

In an interview with TIME, one of the sisters said, “It was depressing to know that we don’t have a future as women in Saudi Arabia and we don’t have any hope for change. The ones who dared to attempt change got imprisoned.”

Physical abuses by male family members for reasons like waking up late for prayer, laughing aloud etc. were routine practices at home.

She added, “This is the moment I planned to leave the country.”

Reem discussed her plans with her younger sister, Rawan, and for more than two years, they schemed their escape through exchanging WhatsApp messages.

“Saudi woman’s life with a strict family is like waiting around to die.”

They decided to flee during a family holiday in Sri Lanka, by stealing passports from their parents’ bag, without seeking the permission from a male guardian to travel.

The pseudo reformer, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has been acclaimed in the West for removing a long-standing driving ban on women and opening movie theaters in the Kingdom.

But he has certainly done nothing about the most pressing issues in the country, including male guardianship system, arrest of human rights activists, gender segregation, etc.

Under the male guardianship system, women in Saudi Arabia cannot freely work or even travel within and outside the Kingdom without a male family member’s permission.

Renouncing radicalization, Saudi women risk their life in search of freedom outside Saudi’s borders. As stated in UN Refugee Agency records, the count of Saudi asylum seekers has surged from 483 outstanding cases during 2015, to 1,308 in 2018’s report.

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