Saudi Sisters Flee Saudi Arabia to Seek Asylum in Georgia
By Staff, Agencies
Two Saudi sisters appealed for help Wednesday from the former Soviet republic of Georgia after fleeing their country, in the latest case of runaways from the ultra-conservative kingdom using social media to seek asylum.
Using a newly created Twitter account called “GeorgiaSisters,” they identified themselves as Maha al-Subaie, 28, and Wafa al-Subaie, 25. Like other Saudi women who have fled and turned to social media, they posted copies of their passports to establish their identities.
The sisters claim they are in danger and will be killed if they are forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia. They said their father and brothers have arrived in Georgia looking for them. Wafa said they fled “oppression from our family” without elaborating.
Saudis can enter Georgia visa-free, making the country a transit point for numerous other Saudi women who have fled in recent years.
Saudi women who run away are almost always fleeing abusive male relatives and claim there are few good choices for them to report the abuse in Saudi Arabia. Saudi women caught running away in the kingdom can be forced into restrictive shelters, pressured to reconcile with their abusers or detained on charges of disobedience.
Regardless of their age, women in Saudi Arabia must have the consent of a male relative to obtain a passport, travel or marry under so-called male guardianship laws.
The sisters’ first post to the Twitter account was Tuesday evening. It read: “We are two Saudi sisters who fled from Saudi Arabia seeking asylum. Yet, the family and the Saudi government have suspended our passports and now we are trapped in Georgia country. We need your help please.”
In another post, the sisters appear with their faces showing and their hair uncovered — a taboo for conservative families in Saudi Arabia. The post says they are showing their faces in order for the world to “remember us” in case something happens to them.
In a later video posted on Twitter, Maha said: “We want your protection. We want a country that welcomes us and protects our rights.”
Her sister posted another video calling for help from the UN refugee agency.
“We fled oppression from our family because the laws in Saudi Arabia (are) too weak to protect us. We are seeking the UNHCR protection in order to be taken to a safe country,” Wafa said.
The sisters did not give further details on why they have fled. The Associated Press could not immediately reach the sisters in Georgia. A Saudi activist who goes by the name Ms Saffaa told the AP that she and other activists have had direct contact with the sisters in Georgia.
The UNHCR in Georgia said it does not comment on individual cases, but that they are closely monitoring the situation of the two sisters.
Around a dozen women’s rights activists have been detained, many since May, after they campaigned against the guardianship system. Some had also wanted to create alternative shelters for women runaways, saying that current shelters in Saudi Arabia are run similar to detention centers.